Aging: Super Bowl and Broadway

Until the New England Patriots showed a glimmer of life in the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl, it appeared that the highlight of the game was going to be the glamour and glitz of Lady Gaga’s halftime show.

Halfway across the country, another glamorous lady took to a familiar stage returning to a role that won her a Tony award and captivated audiences in the mid-90s. Actress Glenn Close strode the storied Palace Theater on Broadway, as Norma Desmond, for a limited engagement of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard, a musical that tells of an aging, washed-out Hollywood legend driven to despondency over the demise of her beauty and once-popular career.

Some thought that Tom Brady, the Patriots’ 39-year-old quarterback, who now boasts an unprecedented five Super Bowl wins, may soon be fading. On Sunday, he told the world otherwise. This athlete achieves as well as he approaches 40 as he did 15 years ago when he succeeded an injured Drew Bledsoe, another outstanding QB.

Aging can bring pain and disappointment; it can also bring wisdom and perspective. Regardless of our age, how we advance through the years requires spirituality as much as it does physical strength and stamina. A friend recently mused that the cause of mid-life crises was the inability to age well; he didn’t mean just physically. Rather, as we grow into the various stages of adulthood, beginning with the departure from adolescence, how we understand our own lives as gifts from God to be placed at the service of others to advance the Gospel remains a critical question for our discernment.

During a poignant scene in Sunset Boulevard, Norma tearfully laments her predicament and losses to a younger man she has manipulated into writing a screenplay just for her. In response to her question about what is wrong with being 50 years old, he gently chides her, “There is nothing wrong being 50 except trying to be 20.”

Sometimes in our youth, we aspire to be more mature; other times, we yearn for younger days. St. Francis de Sales’ oft-repeated maxim and call to authenticity applies to aging, too: “Be who you are and be that well.” We first need to be fully human, which calls us to living as utterly reliant on the grace of God. This we can do, no matter how old we are.