Chapter 17 Summary
“The Seventh Tuesday: We Talk About the Fear of Aging” opens with another loss for Morrie. His great dread—relying on others to wipe his behind—has finally come to pass. Morrie cannot reach around behind his body anymore and he must rely on his nurses to clean him. However, as Morrie predicted in “The First Tuesday: We Talk About the World,” he is able to accept this latest inability by viewing it as a return to childhood. Morrie has discussed his need to give to people, but now he is focused on receiving. What he receives is the physical touch and intimacy that children receive from their mothers. Morrie argues that people do not get enough love as children, and he in particular did not because he lost his mother at a young age. Albom concludes that Morrie’s determination to remain positive and focused on the joys of life is brave.
Their conversation turns to aging. Albom outlines the way youth is portrayed in advertising. After all, no model on a billboard can pass for more than thirty-five. For Albom, it has come to the point that he is ashamed to admit how hold he is, and he is driven to work out and constantly watch his weight. It seems that there is no place in society for the middle aged, not to mention the elderly. Morrie’s response is that the obsession with youth is an illusion. He points out that there are many difficulties with being young, particularly the sense that one is constantly being used and manipulated due to a lack of experience and self-knowledge. Furthermore, Morrie points out that no matter how much people try not to age, they cannot stop time from passing. Therefore, the obsession with fighting one’s age is misguided and causes people to lose focus on living their lives to the fullest.
Usually Albom is quick to endorse his mentor’s views, but he challenges Morrie on this point. He cannot help but feel that Morrie must envy people who are young and healthy, especially given the advanced stage of the illness. However, Morrie responds that while he may envy the health of others, he prefers to think that people are given a time to live their age. He has had his time to be in his thirties and he made the most of that age. Now it is his time to be in his seventies, an age that gives him insight into all ages he has lived through up to this point. Morrie maintains that people who complain about their age or spend too much time complaining about their lost youth are revealing that they are not using their time well and that they are unsatisfied with the way they are living their lives.
The chapter closes with a short verse from W. H. Auden, Morrie’s favorite poet.