Here I am, again, staring at pretend snow falling snottily from a battleship gray sky. A husband, irritated that it’s still not spring, says it’s nasty out there, and wet. His countenance resembles the cardinal at the feeder, a tube thingy, where he never perches. Likely the ground is just plain unattractive today. The cardinal is more hungry than uncomfortable. Husband is back to a warm bed for a few more snores.
I have had my morning cuppa and filled the feeder. I don’t want to go out either. North, the threatened snow accumulation is forecasted to be three to six inches along Lake Erie. Down here, in the Ohio tropics, we’ll have enough to be messy: one to three. So. Fed birds. Made coffee. Climbed steps to the loft and out of the blue, no twisting, etc., my right hip, unprovoked, would prefer not to bear my weight. Sitting here could be long-term! Sitting is painless. Getting back downstairs could be hard.
Why should you care? Likely for one of two reasons: you, too, will age, that place on the calendar that marks your journey. It promises to be fraught with challenges. I forget the second reason, which is directly linked to aging. Forgetting becomes ever more constant until you actually don’t realize you’re forgetting.
Preparing for this segment of the trip, one can’t begin to anticipate the pleasures and pains of the process, even if you’ve had the blessing of helping another along the way, like a parent or a friend further up the road than you. Youth protects us from this knowledge. Unless you’ve been born to a couple late in life, you can’t know that, either.
Aging is a fact of life. Considering the alternative, unless you’re ready to go there, it should be lived with the understanding that there are plus and minuses. For Americans, seniors are generally short-changed. Unlike oriental nations, we bypass the elderly who are rarely venerated, living reminders that there are stages in life that are unwelcome. But think what it means if you are not planning to die young. A slower pace, fewer demands, time that seems to fly even within the long stretch of lonely days, of infirmity, alienation in the world rushing by without you, all salted with the intangible sense that along the way you missed something, or lacked something, or felt something you didn’t expect, like overwhelming love for babies not even yours.
Here, we hardly plan for this part of our future. How odd, for we have many more years of leisure than any generation gone before us. Lots of hours to do whatever our bodies and budgets allow. Our vocabulary betrays our resistance. Elder, old, aging, decrepit, spent, over the hill. No. We like “senior” better.
Wisdom sits quietly in a rocking chair waiting for someone to come and engage in enough conversation to let some of that elixir out. Too often, that treasure is untapped and wasted. Experience sitting on a dusty shelf, dog-eared pages on the face of humanity, gently rocking.
Truth? As a young nursing student I chose to be the “visitor” with patients who had no family, on Sunday afternoons. I enjoyed the challenge of opening these “books”, rifling the pages, waiting for the talk to begin. I wish I’d taken notes. I was too young to know to keep a record. It didn’t take much to stimulate a lonely, frightened old man, or a deserted grandmother longing to tell someone, anyone, about the grandchildren she missed. These live in my memory, whisper to me the knowledge I’d otherwise not have, bright flickering candle flames for this future in which I live now, preserved Sentinels along the path, lighting my way through the shadows.