Teaching old dogs new tricks


Written by ANDRÉE SEU

August 3, 10:16 AM

My father drinks no water or milk, only Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi. It’s not my cup of tea, and I’m sure it’s no good for the human organism, but he is 86 and out-walked me in Washington, D.C., last year, so I leave him alone.

My father is a feature in my backyard from April through October, peddling his bike here from home almost daily after his janitorial job, to put in his lettuces, cukes, and tomatoes. I reap the benefits and he asks for only Pepsi in exchange. But he is shy, you see, so all these years I have had to remember to holler out the back door and offer him the beverage, because he would never dream of walking in the house and opening the fridge.

I finally told him it would suit me better if he would help himself, but my son said I could just forget about that because “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I would have mindlessly agreed to that bit of worldly wisdom except for the fact that two “old dogs” have been learning new tricks in the past year—my mother has turned from 79 years of rejecting Jesus to embracing him as her Savior and my father has risen to the occasion of my mother’s illness and become a better husband in his 80s than he ever was in his 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. He takes her for walks; he does the laundry and grocery shopping. I guess the reader wouldn’t know how astounding that is unless you had known him before.

So today when I heard my son use the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I called him on it. I have to call myself on it often too, as well as on many a worldly platitude I tend to spout automatically. Such expressions may seem harmless enough but they are actually little anti-gospels that, repeated over and over, bore into our souls and train us in the lies of hell, rather than the truths of God.