I love old people. And I say that with total honesty and with the hope that I am not offending anyone over the age of 75. Because of all the old people I grew up with, I don’t think old happens till after 75ish. And even then, it really is just a frame of reference. Old people (speaking generally here, you may know some old people who are jerks, I don’t) have gotten past the looks, the money, the judgements that younger people tend to value above all else. And that is part of what makes old people so fun to be around.
I spent alot of time with old people. My parents taught me the value of my elders before any other value. Makes sense because elders have all the rest of the values pretty much wrapped up. Winning the love and friendship of an older person was a very special thing. We had lots of older people in my neighborhood and in my church and in my family. They never judged me on my outside appearance, even when they probably should have. It seems that if we are lucky, as we age, our eyesight becomes more refined and we are able to see people as they are on the inside. An acceptance of a human being rather than a human doing.
But that is not to say that the old people let me get away with anything. Like I said, their values are solid and they are not scared to offend. Why should they be? They have been there, done that and they are not shy about telling you. It is us younger people, without patience, without understanding, with terminal uniqueness who can’t be bothered with listening. It is us who judge, who laugh at and who don’t care the way we should.When I was 14, I was sneaking a smoke in my garage. My Aunt Rose walked in and I rolled the cigarette over to a friend. I was totally busted. She came right over to me and gave me a hug and said “If you think that just because you make a mistake that I’m not going to love you, you’re wrong. I love you even when you do stupid stuff. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Do you think I haven’t done many stupid things in my life?” and with that she went in to visit with my mother. I felt more love than was my right as a 14 year old (cause I was a pretty big ass when I was 14…)
My parents took care of the generations before them. Not just when they could no longer care for themselves. But they actually visited and helped when they weren’t asked. They did so because they knew that these old people were priceless. And once they were gone, they were gone. One of the best gifts my parents ever gave me was a true appreciation for my elders.
Today, I would rather sit in quiet contemplation with someone from a generation gone by than try to keep up with the gossip on who is wearing what or going where with whom and how much they made last year. I actually enjoy talking with older people. They have far more interesting things to say than younger people. I wonder exactly when we stopped valuing old people. When did we get so self involved that nursing homes became the norm? I know many times a nursing home is the best option, but many other times it is the easiest solution. When I got married, I made sure my then husband understood that we would be the ones to take care of my parents when the time came and that unless circumstances became dire, they would not go into a nursing home. And he agreed. And I did take care of my father as he died, not from old age, but from cancer. The loss I feel is both that of my father and that of a connection to a generation.
Old people have time to give. They know that the rush doesn’t matter in the end. They know that the only thing that matters is the right here and now. They understand the value of friendship, the importance of family and how to put those two ideas into practice. They know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they do not have all the answers and therein lies the wisdom. They have witnessed not only their own life but the lives of history. There is a reason that old people and young children get along so well. Neither one of them judges the other on their outward appearance. They see with their hearts.Wouldn’t it be lovely to not to have to judge others. It is exhausting keeping up with the Joneses not to mention the Kardashians. Really takes a toll.
Elders are not disposable or to be laughed at or stuck away only to be brought out on special occasions. They are to be held, and spoken to, and learned from. When I was 16 and my grandma died, I was sad to lose her, but I was more upset that I never got to ask her the questions I didn’t even know I had. I wanted to ask her the secret to a long marriage, and to raising kids, and what she would have done differently if anything. She was 84 and even then I felt it was too soon, there was so much more I needed to learn from her. But as is the way of life, other older people have come into my life. None with the specific answers but all with a way to live that I can admire.
Old people are just way more fun. They no longer have the hang ups, they are ready and willing to be who they are, no excuses. They know how to forgive. They get what the important things in life are. It is a shame that we younger people don’t see what they have to offer as invaluable. Time runs out so quickly and then another generation is gone. What have we learned? I tell you what, we are all headed in the same direction. We are all actively dying and there is no escape from the end. And if we are very, very lucky, we will be that little old person pissing off the young person behind us as we drive to Wegmans to get ingredients to make cookies for our grandkids….but only if we are lucky.