Let me begin by saying that this is an apology, though at first it really will not seem like one.
My whole life I have been told to respect my elders. Teachers and caregivers push the implication that age necessarily begets wisdom, but I have always found this a difficult pill to swallow.
Though I understand the rationale and I concede that experience affords perspective, I reject the notion that I should respect someone solely based on the fact they have had more birthdays than I have; age should not hold more weight than the content of discourse.
It is not the case that I am actively disrespectful, rather, for me, age simply does not factor into the decision to treat you with deference or not. I use the general “you” here of course. If I disagree with your argument, I have no qualms at saying so, irrespective of the number of times you have orbited the sun.
“Elders” tend to dislike my position on the matter; authority figures in particular. My mother has had many prickly conversations with me on the subject.
It could have been such a gratifying evening. Your home, the food, the wine, the heat, it mixed into a heady cocktail of age old summers I have to look forward to, an amalgamation of the fleeting vigour of juvenescence and the sensation of being a part of something perennial.
You recounted stories from your life, from a myriad of professions you had undertaken, and you spoke of struggle and hardships like cool water on parched lips. You spoke of now, of the impending social and ecological crises you still felt it was your duty to avert. At age 84 you talked of legacy and future.
My awe and veneration at our conversation was blemished by the mortification I felt at being associated with him, the one I am apologising for. He seems up to the times at first impression, forward thinking and charismatic, a glint of idealistic enthusiastic youth. Only at very first impression. The wool had already been removed from my eyes, but you were to be his next unsuspecting casualty. For this I am truly sorry.
With every word he uttered he revealed his industrialised bigotry, the short sightedness of his point of view, and the uninformed timbre of his opinions.
I sunk deeper into my chair and tried to be fascinated by the drizzle of honey left on my dessert plate. I did not think even he could fit so many isms in his discourse.
You had the grace to let him speak.
Some people are impervious to wisdom, no matter how much time they have spent on this earth.