It’s not just the scary jowly stuff going on at my jawline reflected in the the beautician’s mirror as I sit having my haircut. Nor is it the weird things my skin is doing at the bending places. Nope, not me catching myself from spouting “That’s noise” when accosted by an unfamiliar modern tune. Not the suppressed flinch when some clerk at the store asks “Are you retired?”; the handsome waiter calling me ‘ma’am’, the senior menu qualification growing ever nearer (reading glasses required to see the small print where the age is disclosed).
It’s a discomfort, a sense of alienation, a discomfort with and in the world that I’ve never felt before. I’ve never been one to spout such platitudes as
“Oh these kids today (rolling eyes)”, or “They don’t make stuff like they used to”, etc., but dang, if those thoughts don’t come to mind on occasion.
When I watch an entire awards show and recognize only a handful of recipients and performers, when a simple freeway drive is no longer pleasant because of the aggressive, thoughtless drivers that seem to actively make the drive unpleasant by treating my very existence as a nuance in favor of haste, when left wondering if I suffer from early onset dementia because I can’t type in the correct password without opening a lengthy spreadsheet of passwords for one of dozens of financial or social account (that are only available online), when the only time I get a glimpse of my neighbors is for ten seconds as they are in their car backing out of their driveway using their auto-controlled garage door, open-shut, when I have to hide from the sun because it might (and has) led to cancer, when the oldies channels on the radio play stuff I don’t know because I was busy raising kids when it was popular, when the beloved members of the greatest generation dwindle by the day, exiting the world stage at a time when we could sure use their sturdy tenacity and courage—that is when I feel old.
I love the Asian and native American cultures for many reasons. Their respect for mother earth, their plant based health promoting diets, their ancient respectful relationship with their home. What is most precious in these cultures and seems to be pushed aside with every passing year by a culture that is non-stop youth and energy, is the veneration and interest in the elderly. When I think what amazing life-altering wisdom is ignored because of our cultural bias, it makes me cry.
That ‘invisible’ senior you wiz by on the street as she struggles with her walker, has a life story to feel that could change your world.
When I was searching for volunteer work to enrich my time, I purposely looked for ways I could interact with and serve the elderly. The stories of lives lived in the first half of the twentieth century during times that challenged the very continuance of mankind are the stuff of more than wisdom passed on. They are the very lifeblood of our humanity.
In a time before electronics people interacted face to face, raised their families without the competition of incessant input from said e-gadgets, people lived a more personal, for lack of a better word, life. Flesh to flesh, face to face, heart to heart, we are united with those around us by a bond that dates back to our very roots. The need for personal interaction echoes in our genes.
Click by click, flicker by flicker we gain a breadth of knowledge about places and people around the world we may never have met. Personal? No. Enriching? Perhaps. Do I miss the ‘old days’? Gosh yes.
Those folks of yore have either gone to their reward or moved a continent or two away for the allure of a job—chasing, ever chasing that elusive dream of greener grass. We are an isolated people and it sometimes makes me melancholy –or maybe I am just “Old”.