Thursday, October 4, 2007

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Why do people do it? What makes elderly people pack up a few goods and all the memories in their home community and dash off to places unknown? To areas where seniors are known to congregate? Particularly the west coast? And don’t you tell me it’s for the climate either – as bad as dry freezing cold is for stiff and arthritic joints, all that moisture has to be a whole lot worse.

I never did understand it. But I am older now so closer to a state of understanding (maybe?). The most obvious thing I can put my finger on is a perception of a change in identity that none of us welcome with open arms. A feeling of deteriorating physical beauty – wrinkled skin, gray hair, a limp, or a much slowed walking pace – and thus a wish to escape before the changes are too obvious. The only way to preserve the identity of what we once were is to get away before any one really notices.

But as for me, I’m staying. I find that an amazing number of people older than I still remember how lively and curious I was as a child. Others remember when I worked here and when I worked there. Others (a mighty few), remember even more unique things – a conversation we once had, a meal we once shared, a laugh, or a cup of tea. Some remember better than me how I looked when I had rich brown hair and a long ponytail. Hub certainly does. And of course some remember the mistakes I made, but I remember them a whole lot better.

That’s comforting. But what is even more comforting about my home community is the loyalty my neighbors have always shown me and still do. It’s as sweet as mothering comfort to know how readily they will come to my aid, if aid is needed.

Sure I hate to hear the things I hear now. Remarks like, “Roberta is looking pretty peaked, don’t you think?” “She’s certainly aging fast.” I would like to be smug enough to say I don’t take these things into account, but I do. But instead of packing up and dashing away to parts unknown, I just disassociate more. Stay more out of sight. And so I only make the dreaded trip to town on odd, and sparse days, when I am particularly well rested and feeling a little more energetic than usual. Pleasant days, that for a brief moment, allow my wrinkled skin to look reasonably ruddy, and a day when sunshine casts sky-lights on my gray hair so that it looks like enviable[?] silver gloss.

Old, but vain, you might say. I prefer to think ‘not’ but at the same time maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is vanity that applies in indirect ways to all of us – whether we stay, or whether we leave.

Bottom line for me is I am going to stay, if for no other reason, because of the great fun and amusement Hub and I find in the company of kids. Particularly in the close companionship of the twins next door and the pleasant thrill my grandchildren get from sleeping in the same room, playing in the same yard, eating in the same kitchen, as Mom did when she was little. These kids love everything about this place and they make us laugh and that would be the sad thing missing if we moved to a distant or modern villa for retirees.

Who can deny that the gaiety of children is certainly the most effective anti-dote for the drudgery and disparity of old age? The ‘Comedy Channel’ is so often nothing more than remakes of the same old joke. With children every hilarious antic is fresh and new and original. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I didn’t get a picture yesterday but I certainly wish I had. Girl Twin asks Hub, “What do you want me to do?” Hub replies “Follow the Yellow Brick Road, follow the Yellow Brick road.” And with that cue to start, Hub and Girl Twin skip down a trail of solidly blanketed golden leaves singing loudly “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz”.

Hub is too funny leaping with such wildly exaggerated steps, arms loosely raised, and flipping his head of sparse hair while singing in a simulated high-pitched, yet child-like, squeaky operatic voice. Ditto for Girl Twin. And here comes Twin Boy and I behind singing as loud as we can in falsetto, “Because, because, because, because – Because of the wonderful things he does!" All our troop barely able to sing for laughing.

So, as I’ve already said, Hub and I wish to stay put, but if anyone had seen us, for certain, we would have been packed up in short order by some charitable-minded community citizen or physician and moved to some other locale.

So, it goes without saying, if we intend to stay put, maybe we need to be just a bit more careful. Old people, despite allowances for their eccentricities and peculiarities, are nonetheless expected to be slightly more demure, and a bit more mature, than we tend to be.

To sum this all up, the nicest part of it all is later, after dinner, Hub and I sit in the livingroom and relax. The old hip is aching, the stomach is unsettled, the back spasm is still there, the heartburn is back, feet are swollen, but still we smile and smile because it was such a funny day. Hub asks with a grin, “What are you grinning about?” and I don’t even answer. We just laugh some more.


Pauline said...

oh lordy, roberta! Don't ever be demure! This was a great story.

Matty said...

Isn't it great? A lot of people remark that it must be so difficult raising grandkids..if they only knew how much fun it is, never boring, always learning, laughing, growing, challenging...and a great excuse to never grow up!
Yes there is more housework, dishes, laundry....but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I think also that a lot of seniors move away...because as they realize they are getting old...they wonder 'is this it? is that all there is?'...and starting a new life will give them more bang for their buck, more memories, new friends?
They just want more life, more living.
I'm happy where I just can't get better than this. If people would get more involved with their grandkids or the kids in the community...they would never be bored or lonely.
Right now we are busy decorating pumpkins for the senior center.
Have a great Halloween with the kids.

Roberta S said...

pauline, I'm always so encouraged when you critique my stories and give me good grades. Makes me proud like a school kid.-- which I guess is not exactly "demure".

Roberta S said...

matty, always happy to have you stop by. I am quite certain there is a lot of truth in your comment about why retirees move away. Something that never occurred to me.

I wouldn't be so bold as to say life couldn't be better, but I'm no longer so adventurous as I once was and more and more I find great comfort in familar faces, places, etc. I am glad that you find such enjoyment in all that is near and dear to you -- right there, right where you are and that you engage in crafts with the young'uns. I think that is so important.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I'm not as adventuresome as I used to be either Roberta....but, I can't imagine giving up my home and moving to senior community or the like. I don't see anything wrong with them...honestly, but I just don't see me doing that. I've certainly entertained the thought of not having to take care of this house and any problems/costs that come up regarding it; but that's about as far as it goes. I just don't see that in my future....and for the very reasons you mentioned. I really enjoyed this post Roberta.

Roberta S said...

Hi joy. Thanks for that comment. I was just over to the Elder Story-Telling place last night and noticed you wrote an outstanding blog with a similar theme. I found it rather uncanny that we were thinking on such similar lines about the benefits of good humor. Makes me think since we had not read each others thoughts prior to writing that there is something in the 'beauty of fall' that can touch all hearts if we are open to letting it do that.