As an Elder I pictured myself seated in a circle inside a large teepee, surrounded by the leaders of the tribe, smoking a ceremonial peace pipe, the fur pelts of foxes and bears draped around my shoulders. (It’s been said I look an awful lot like Kevin Costner).
As it turns out, the peace pipe was a hit on a joint of 28% THC Cookie Gelato, which made the winner of the High Times Cannabis Cup more Marlboro than cannabis legend. As for the furs, go with a knitted shawl tucking me in as I slept like a recent arrival to the ICU.
It’s a fuzzy concept, the notion that there is a distinction between being elderly and being an Elder, with a capital “E.”
Basically, being an Elder means bitching less and giving such earth-shattering guidance to your granddaughter as “Find your own path and follow it where it leads you.” When she says, “What does that mean?” smile knowingly, and suggest she check out your post on Myspace.
It’s helpful when pontificating to make your advice as bland as possible because it can come back to haunt you. When my son was in his teens, I told him, “Do what you enjoy doing and the money will come.” After decades of skiing every mountain in North America and kayaking most of the continent’s rivers he scolded me for the lousy advice that kept him broke and driving a 1986 Datsun.
There is no point to imparting your knowledge, your wisdom, your experience, to your children. Notice when they bob their heads as you orate that they are wearing earbuds. They are listening, but not to you.
Another truism that Elders must accept, it is sheer fantasy to imagine yourself using the computer for anything other than sending email on your AOL server. It is not going to happen; your technical facility stopped with the Jacquard loom. Accept that all the jokes about Grandparents calling their grandchild to turn on the computer, are not funny, they speak to the truth. The first year of this blog had no graphics until my eight year old granddaughter showed how to access and move pictures to the site. As for playing Roblox, I have no idea what you are talking about unless that is one of the Angry Birds.
I write this because I have just finished reading some lengthy excerpts from Judith Viorst’s “Nearing Ninety and Other Comedies of Late Life,” the latest in her series of decade poetry books (“Unexpected Eighty,” “I’m too Young to be Seventy.”) Her advice is the simplest of all: Laugh.
My gummy eyes peer anxiously at the blurry numbers of the
Straining, without my glasses, to determine
If it’s a sufficient 7:20am, or merely a miserable 25 to 4,
Which is too late for Ambien, and too early to get up.
Her book opens with a wonderful quote from philosopher George Santayana: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” It’s still another reminder to forego longingly looking back at the past or anxiously imagining what the future might bring.
My days are too precious to waste. So I’m laughing. At myself, at all the times I take myself too seriously. To cite Ms. Viorst, “Laughter comes sooner and easier now, for it would be a shame to miss the delights winter offers to those nearing 90.”