When we are young we are given our preconceptions—being a kid is fun, being an adult is having the freedom to pursue and manage our lives, and growing old gives you wisdom and peace. This is a marketing approach given by parents, teachers and, I suppose, ourselves.
We need and want to look forward to something so we encase it in golden threads; the threads are spun to offer us a glow of wonderfulness to work toward or to reflect upon.
This is a very efficient system, which is used quite effectively. As children—birth to two, we have fun. We don’t know we are having fun, it is something we learn about when we are older and see the pictures and hear people telling us how much fun we had and how much joy we brought to everyone. By the time we are two however, we DO acquire responsibility—don’t hit siblings, don’t mess our pants, don’t throw our food etc. Oops here it comes.
Yes, there is always that big R word throughout our lives
This epistle, and that is all it is—a tome directed at my children and grandchildren to explain myself, will reflect on the second phase mentioned above “adulthood” often. Looking at the span of life however logically: as a small child you do not have the skills to record or explain your opinions; as an adult you do not have the time nor the insight (you are too busy gathering the experience that will lead to insight). Entering old age, however, one has more time and finally that freedom we were supposed to have during our median adulthood.
It is the circumstance of available time and the need to share my thoughts that place me before the computer to write this epistle. You see old age has many faces and paths. There are incredible role models for how to “mature” gracefully and beautifully. What I mean here is that we are occasionally given a Birdseye view of productive notables such as Henry Kissinger or former President George H.W. Bush. We see them as contented contributors to society—still engaged.
Alternatively, we see old retired people in our own families. We can even observe, particularly in my case, those who have will and stamina and those who have become “medical groupies”. Don’t get me wrong; we all have to march to the beat of bodies that are becoming inefficient. We all must be proactive in taking our lipitor, diabetes drugs, etc. That is our RESPONSIBILITY—there’s that word again. There are those my age, however, whose lives revolve around their medical history. They fill their lives and our ears with endless tales of this operation or that medicine. They thrive upon sad or glorious medical escapades.
As I approach my 67th birthday, I currently fall into the strong will and stamina category. I suppose I had better capture this phase quickly for one of the realities of old age is that you can never be sure when you will be “overcome by events” and find yourself a “medical groupie”. Without a doubt retirement is the worse thing that can happen to an old person. Imagine having to spend an entire day focusing on each little pain and its possible implications. Between the ages of 30 and 60 pains have cause and effect—worked too hard at the gym, etc. After 60, despite their possibly also having a cause and effect, they have wider and more sinister implications. “Am I getting fibermyalgia, like Arlene?” “Is this indigestion or is my heart beginning to fail, like Ethel’s?” “I wonder if I should write this down and talk to the doctor about it?” After retirement, these thoughts are not simply quick mind flashes; they become focus points for the entire day. Better, much better, to have other things to fill a day. For those, and I am one of them, who continue to work and pretend—out of perceived fear or real fear of being sent to retirement, to be younger than we are, another set of requirements opens.
The pretense takes on a life of its own.