“Old Age hath yet his honour and his toil”
Alfred Lord Tennyson “
“We have capitulated in face of the powerful social game which is entirely dedicated to doing rather than being, to success and profit, to know-how and to possession. There is no room left for inspiration in this turmoil, and creativity is inspiration. In order to be truly creative, one must stop to think, to re-think one’s personal goal in life, for a man’s true work is his life. Paul Tournier, from his book Creative Suffering.
I wander freely through the grass, the bridges, the towns and now and then stop at a cafe for warm coffee. I climb up on rocks and tables, sit on the beach near the rolling waves, and at times the breakers catch me in their strong arms, and push me back to the shore; dripping with wet salty clothes. I laugh. I am cold, but I don’t care. I captured the wild ocean in my camera!
Wh0 am I? I am a photographer, an artist, a painter, I learned to speak Italian, when I lived in Italy and traveled throughout Europe. I taught lively teens for 25 years. Who am I?
These were my thoughts, as I entered the noisy restaurant with a friend, and was seated at a small worn table near the bar area. My attention swiftly turned to a slim lady seated comfortably at the bar. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her sparkling silver hair that was carelessly tossed in a stylish bob. She held a glass of wine in one hand while her fingers on her other hand bounced to the lusty music. When her face turned slightly toward me, I was startled by the dark age spots that dotted her face. The man beside her turned toward her, his arm slipped around her waist. I thought I saw a glimpse of love in his tired eyes. She turned toward him, her lips were a web of lines, but her smile was open and tender. My mind went to a “Norman Rockwell” moment. Ah I envisioned what a beautiful painting the couple would make The “splendid youth of old age,” I coined to myself.
Then my thoughts turned to old retired Freddie. It was just last week I saw him at Jenny’s Coffee shop. I was the first customer of the day. My weather worn watch told me it was just 7:00 am. Jenny had started the coffee brewing. It made loud burping sounds, sounds that delighted my ears, signaling me that the delicious blend would soon be ready. Freddy slowly opened the smudged glass door. He hesitated, his gnarled hands shaking, and then he thrust the entrance way-open. I always enjoyed Freddy as he enlivened and educated me with the tales of the town’s history. He was 91 years old, and as bright as any professor at Princeton University. He retired from his law practice 15 years ago, but still handed out advise freely. He was known as “Retired Freddie. “Broke”, he said last week, ” I am broke. I gave my daughter power of attorney over my estate. She fooled me.” I wondered what he meant, but didn’t ask. Today, he walked with a more pronounced limp, his car keys jingled in his hand. The wrinkles on his face seemed to collapse as he slid onto the stool. I thought I saw a tear caught on the rim of his dull black glasses. His faded eyes looked toward Jenny as she handed him the fresh coffee. He whispered, “I am dying, I am dying”. Frightened, Jenny braced herself against the counter to support herself. Trembling, I leaned over and touched the tattered shoulder of his jacket. “What do you mean. Freddie,” we both chimed together. “I am dying, I am dying, my daughter is sending me to a nursing home.” he sobbed. The tear slipped soundless from the rim of his glasses.”Where is the nursing home,” exclaimed Jenny. “An hour trip from here. An hour drive from here, an entire hour,” he moaned. Freddie slipped from his stool, threw a few dollars on the counter. “Goodbye my friends, I am dying, he murmured.” Just as Freddie reached the door, Jenny moved from behind the counter, trying to stop him. But she was too late. He disappeared before she reached the door. A cold wind blew in the coffee shop as she hollered after him…. “Freddie, Freddie, don’t let them lock you in….don’t let them lock you in.” Her words echoed – but were lost in the brisk fall wind. A few brownish leaves scurried into the coffee shop and were caught under her black shoes before she closed the door. She turned toward me, her face was wet with tears. We knew his daughter would never go to see him. She hated driving. She often reminded any one that bothered to listen to her just how much she despised driving.
Michelangelo said, “Many believe -that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age I do not want to give it up. I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.
The above accounts above are true stories. Names and places have been changed. When I retired in February, 2016, from teaching, I instantly sensed I was being treated differently. In fact, someone kindly wanted to give me something to do, so “you won’t be bored ” they softly said. Just as when the waves of the sea caught me and I tumbled back onto the beach I laughed; I laughed at this suggestion.
I read somewhere that we tend to think of older and retired people as less productive than the younger ones, the opposite is true. Age 55 and on upwards people tend to be more reliable and in many cases, more productive. Why does not ageing carry with it more “honour” than it does – in our society that seems to value youth.
Who am I? Retired? Yes, but wait a minute, No, I am just starting “the splendid youth of old age,” I coined to myself. My new beginning. Old, maybe some people would say, but ah – I have the knowledge and wisdom neatly packaged inside. Unlike Freddie, I refuse the title “Retired.”
DON’T STOP! DON’T STOP! DON’T LET THEM LOCK YOU IN!!
My questions : why does society frequently treat retired or older people so poorly? Why isn’t the wisdom gathered by the old, used by the young? Or is it being used? I wrote the example of the “Norman Rockwell” couple and Freddie. Which way are you headed? Or are you already there? Who are you? What will your Identity become?
I would love to hear your views on your identity as you grow older! nd how older people are doing. Please post your ideas!!