At what point does a person come to be known as ” Old?” I’m asking the question based on observations and personal anecdotes.
For example, when my parents were retired and in their late 60’s they belonged to a ” Golden Agers Club” which met weekly for social activities. At some point they abruptly quit. When I asked why they bailed on the club my Mom’s reply was this: ” There was no one there but old people.”
I used to belong to AARP and I received the monthly magazine. I quit the group because the magazine was full of pictures of old people. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. By the way, you can be an associate member of the AARP at 40 so I’m not THAT old.
One more older person’s view of life and again my inspiration is my late Mom. This conversation actually took place:
Mom – I’m not feeling well
Me – Go see a doctor.
Mom – I’m not going to see a doctor. Remember Louie down the street? He wasn’t feeling well and he went to the doctor. Three days later he was dead.
Me – Well, Ma, maybe if he went to the doctor three weeks ago instead of three days ago he might still be alive.
End of conversation.
So, the old person, old person conversation. I ran into an older couple a few weeks back at the supermarket. They have to be nearing their 80’s. I knew them from church where they had been pretty active volunteers.
The wife and I recognized each other. Her husband not at all. In fact I doubt that he knew who he was. His wife whispered to me that his mind was going and that’s all she had to say.
Looking into his eyes I could see a vacant pleading look. He tried like hell to focus and come up with a recognition of me and who I was but he kept coming up empty. He’s on his way to somewhere and although I don’t know where that is I do know that it’s not good.
I saw them again late this afternoon. He said ” Good Morning.”. She has to constantly hold his hand or else he’s liable to wander off and get lost.
I’m sure that she doesn’t think of herself as old. We’re not really sure what he’s thinking. My thoughts dead end here and have no where else to go except to relate a story that contains advice for anyone who deals with older people.
In his last few years my Dad would send me seemingly useless items but with the best intentions.
Sometimes he’d find a tennis ball in his yard and mail it to me saying that my cats would have fun with it. Or it would be an envelope stuffed with rubber bands. Everyone needs rubber bands at some point – no?
At first I would politely decline these gifts until I realized that all he wanted, that all he was doing was still looking out for me his 50 year old son and my family. He still wanted to be needed, especially after my Mom passed away.
And so in a flash of insight and unintentional genius I resolved to always accept any and all of his wacky gifts and advice. I don’t know how much difference my new attitude made in his life towards the end. I do know that I felt better knowing that as he was reaching out that I wasn’t saying, “Uh, no thanks on a regular basis.” That I wasn’t rejecting what he wanted to give.
Just say yes. Even if you think the advice is faulty or way out of date. Even if you know you’ll just eventually toss that envelope of rubber bands. Because you never know when you might need one.