Late in life, as one nears the end, certain things begin to creep into your head. To be sure, we are aware of our mortality almost from the day we’re born, but we choose to ignore it. My own thoughts are sprinkled with the way I will shuffle off this mortal coil, and there’s many ways it can occur. It could be a sudden heart attack, maybe a car wreck, or the end might come as the result of a long battle with a disease. One thing is absolutely certain…I will never choose suicide. My love of life could be the stuff of legends and, contrary to some folks that have written me, I am NOT a morbid creature. No, I’m simply tuned in to life, and death. It will come to me as it comes to everyone, and I have been preparing myself for it for many, many years.
I lost my Dad in 1959. He was, to me, all the things I wanted to be…and did become. Although he only completed the third grade in formal education he was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He worked the NY Times crossword puzzles with an ink pen. He was well-read and as cultured as he needed to be for his time. He instilled in me a love of learning, mostly through books (which I treasure) about all sorts of subjects. When he died it was a life-changing event for me because it brought me face-to-face with my own humanity. To know, and prepare, is something of a gift in my estimation. How terrible it would be to go through life not cherishing every moment because you thought it would never end. It does. That’s a fact and no one escapes, regardless of who or what you may be.
Maybe, in other cultures, learning is not stressed as much as it could be. My own primary education was, fortunately, during a time when knowing as much as you could, was a priority. It doesn’t seem that way today. Late in life, as you look back at the times, you can appreciate what you learned. Today’s students, in my not-so-humble opinion, are not learning about the world as it is…they are being indoctrinated to a world that is hostile to new ideas, does not venerate established mores, and is more and more a “throw-away” society. There’s a whole generation, maybe two, where the biggest majority of them couldn’t make or repair anything. They just throw it away and get another one, without giving a thought as to where it came from or how it was made…so long as they don’t have to think, they won’t. America used to be one of the greatest manufacturing nations of the world. Not so today…we import stuff that we used to make.
Every day I wake up, stand up and begin the day, and that’s a great beginning let me tell you. Many people, some older, some younger, cannot do that. Piling on the years gives you a great perspective on things. You can look around and say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I used to do that…but maybe I did it differently.” or you might think “Wow…I never wanted to do THAT.” Sometimes, in conversations with my kids or grandkids I have to point out that I’ve already been where they are, and passed through that either with flying colors or learned a valuable lesson the hard way. The old expression is that good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. It was true when it was first said and it’s still true today and will always BE true. If a person does not learn from their mistakes they’ll most likely keep on making them.
Old people, like me, get set in their ways. Change, if you didn’t already know, is the one constant thing in the world. However, change can be a huge problem for our elders. Take eating, as an example…if one has dentures you’re advised not to eat certain foods even though you love them and have been eating them practically all your life. On the other hand, if you have NO teeth, soft foods are going to be your diet. You’ll take all sorts of medications for what ails you, and believe me, something will! Change anything, even down to the way your food is served, and it might provoke a lively “discussion” on why it was done. Someone once said that youth is exciting, and it is…but old age is comfortable, and it is. You’re not called on (as much) to babysit, or help with the spring cleaning or hanging up pictures…you’re recognized as having a bit of intelligence (but not much) by your children. You can make up your own schedules or have none…except for the meds of course. Time is no longer a challenge because it belongs to you now…no one else determines it for you. Hmm…maybe there’s a caveat in there because doctors do affect your non-schedule somewhat.
Parting shot: All you folks that are younger than I, give a thought now and then to what you have done and accomplished during your time here. Are you proud of what you are leaving behind, or are there things that you’d rather not have done? If you are like me, it’s a mixture of the good and bad. Just accept it and smile.