Repost from October 2010 in memory of Ernest Borgnine of McHales Navy fame, who also played the role of Mermaid Man in Sponge Bob Square Pants.
My wife, our youngest, and I while flying on a plane to visit family across the country got a bit bored.
I spotted an older gentleman sitting across the aisle from us. He was a distinguished looking man, probably in his mid to late seventies.
He sported close to a full head of silver hair and proudly wore it the same as he has since the 50’s or 60’s. Parted on the left side of his scalp, the mini-wave moving upward away from the part, cresting about three-quarters of the way toward the opposite side, and flattening as it reached the other side of his scalp.
Soon after take-off he dozed off. Slumped forward in his seat with his stomach and his seatbelt keeping him in his chair.
As he slept I noticed he had a striking resemblance to a super hero named “Mermaid Man.”
For those readers who don’t have younger children might not recognize the name. He is a character from the “Sponge Bob Square Pants” cartoon. In this cartoon, Mermaid Man is an old retired super hero that lives in a retirement home with his lifelong sidekick “Barnacle Boy.”
Even though the super hero’s are over the hill the main character Sponge Bob, still respects and admires them.
As the flight wore on my daughter settled into her book, my wife started nodding off like the super hero across the isle, and I picked up my pen and began to ponder on paper.
The man who would be our neighbor for over the next three hours had my attention. He most certainly was a dignified looking man, even at his age. Although I have know way of knowing for sure, he and his wife had the look of parents. Maybe they were flying to visit family as well.
My guess is his son or daughter at some point in their lives thought he was a real super hero. Maybe even more now than in the past. Perhaps he has more value now than ever before in his life.
At his age he has had time to gain wisdom, to understand life and how fleeting it is. Because he understands this, he might be sacrificing his comfort flying across the country with us to spend some of that precious time with his family.
My physical peak is past me now as well, not as far past as Mermaid Man, but past none the less.
This day and Mermaid Man remind me of the analogy in the Bible of how a flower represents our life. It grows and blooms into its full designed form and beauty, then begins to fade, wither, and eventually die.
So it is with all of our lives. The purpose of our having been here might be a little like the flower as well. To bring joy into those looking upon our lives and enjoying and learning from our process of life.
As we grow the elders look upon our lives like the flower. Even though they’ve seen other flowers grow, they marvel at yet another. Each one is special and unique.
When we bloom into the physical climax of our lives, the elders stand proud, pleased in another beautiful life blooming. The younger lives see and admire the blossom as well, looking forward to their turn in the process of life.
Maybe the most important part of the process comes next. As we wither and lose the majesty or beauty once possessed in our process, what are we teaching and showing the younger ones following us?
Maybe some day I’ll look like Mermaid Man too? Mr. McGoo is more likely…
Never mind the dwindling blossom of what I once looked like, what have I learned now that I’m an over the hill super hero? I can’t leap buildings in a single bound anymore, so what value do I have?
My value starts by acknowledging the One who sent me, and the task or mission set before me. Although the acts of wisdom are physical, they are acts of teaching, caring and showing what grace received looks like. Wisdom is more easily understood this side of the blossom.
I bet if I would have followed Mermaid Man out of the airport, I would have got to see “The Boat Mobile”!