Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elders Misunderstood

I'm sorry, Judemiller, for biting your head off in a previous comment section. I actually dreamed last night that I had yelled at you.

The fact is that I think we all need some training in how to deal with elders. Jim never did get over being impatient with Addy when she walked through a door and stopped dead. She never could manage her debit card without help. She would hand it to me in the grocery store and let me do it.

She concealed the fact that she was legally blind, and even drove like that for a couple of years. She never could bring herself to admit to it, even though it would have got her a tax break. Need I say I was very relieved when Jim took away her car keys?

So, yes, elders can be annoying. However, it behooves us to learn why and try to have patience.

For a start, a clerk in a shop or a receptionist at a doctor's office can have no idea who she is dealing with. Just another smelly, slow, cantankerous old person, right?

That "old person" could have been a fighter pilot in the Korean War, a cop, a wartime factory worker, a prima ballerina, an entertainment idol. That "old person" could have been active in the Civil Rights movement. Could have saved lives as a nurse or firefighter, could have changed lives as a teacher or librarian. You just never know what the person has accomplished in life--that person you casually call "Hon," or "Dearie." I remember telling people, about Addy, "She has a name. It's right on your form there. She's Mrs Prior!" I knew quite a lot about Addy. I knew she once threw a monseigneur up against a wall because she caught him manhandling a teenage girl. She was tapped for the 1940 Olympics in track and field. She almost single-handedly desegregated a high school prom, in Lubbock in the 1960s. She called a former governor of Texas an ass, to his face. She was a tall, feisty redhead, in her youth.

So, just because she was, by then, white-haired and my size, and plagued with illness and infirmity, and blind and trembly and slow...does NOT give anyone the right to be disrespectful of her or to her.

...And every elder has stories like that. Oh, I know...not everyone has a life to look back on with as few regrets as she had, but still. You just don't know. None of us does.

I make it a point to cut elders all the slack in the world. After all, we may all be there someday. Not all of us will die the way we want to--in our sleep, without any loss of faculties, and after a hot night of dancing know. In fact, most of us will find ourselves being bumped into because we have entered a room and stopped to make sure there's not a step down right inside the door. Many of us will have trouble with our debit cards; maybe forget our PIN, or hit the wrong button. And maybe we will be a bit impatient with ourselves for our progressive weakness and dependence on others. And maybe we will hope that others will cut us some slack.


  1. I didn't realize you had yelled at me. I guess what I was trying to say is that I AM one of those elder people--well on my next birthday I feel that I will move from a "Senior" into an "Elder" mode and I, actually, am pretty pissed off about it.
    When I step into a store I have to stop also, but I step over to one side, until my eyes adjust or my brain is less dizzy and legs more stable.
    I suppose the reason I get a tad impatient with those older than me is that I see myself in them? Although I never show that impatience, rather, I step up to help them. I guess I am scared because I am going to be them in another few years and this whole aging thing terrifies me and twists me around every now and then.

    I loved my MIL also--she worked in the factory during WWII--she was a wonderful woman.

    Maybe that scares me too--that I have lived and not done anything really significant?

    I sincerely hope I don't disturb anymore of your dreams :-)

  2. I didn't actually yell (I just dreamed that), but I did respond "sharpish," as Addy used to say.

    I have to ask; how do you know you haven't done anything significant? I'm willing to be that there are at least fifty people whose lives you have impacted in a positive way. Fifty people who remember you, and pray for you, and cherish you in their hearts because you did something, sometime, that improved their lot.

    Even having the right people hating you can only be a good thing.

    Many of us have got through life without doing what we thought we wanted to do when we were young. Still, I will guaran-damn-tee you that you have accomplished a lot.

    Oh...and it's not you disturbing my dreams, it's me telling myself not to be so hard on people.

  3. Even having the right people hating you can only be a good thing.

    That's the one I liked best, Ronni!

  4. Hi, Ronni! My apology for not giving MGMT (and Scotland)credit where it was due came out as a post on the blog- praises for this inisghtful piece needed to be posted here- I live in a "health facility with 100 souls , all but one of them older than me and most of them downright elderly. We are all victims of rampant don't-give-a-damn-ism, and have been for some years before we ended up here in Camp "Y'all Too-Old-to-Matta". I am working up a serious head of steam which should surface in print soon, In the mean-time, I speak for lots of us when I say thanks! We needed the kind words! The first time a lady whose 'particulars' were still perky said "excuse me", to me, I had been here 10 months, and I cried! Please. Do, pay just that modicum of attention to us slow, doddering, helpless wastes of your time. We will be endlessly grateful,and you will build up good kharma for your own "Golden Years". Blessings! Mare

  5. Don't have enough time to read at the minute. Popped in to wish you a lovely peaceful weekend. xx

  6. Okay, I missed all that, but knowing both of you personally, I can say that you two would get on like a house on fire in so many ways.

    Having lost my mother before I was fully formed, I appreciate the women a generation older than mine, and you two are some pretty cool ladies who have enriched my life.

    I only hope I turn out that way!

  7. See, Judemiller? There's Lisa checking in to say that you have influenced her.

    We can't all fly to the moon or write the great American novel.