A very old man lay dying in his bed. In death’s doorway, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookie wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven. There, spread out on newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table. The aged and withered hand, shaking, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife.
“Stay out of those,” she said. “They’re for the funeral.”
A little, silver-haired lady calls her neighbor and says, “Please come over here and help me. I have a very difficult jigsaw puzzle, and I can’t figure out how to get started.”
Her neighbor asks, “What is it supposed to be when it’s finished?”
The little lady says, “According to the picture on the box, it’s a rooster.”
Her neighbor decides to go over and help her with the puzzle. When he arrives, the old lady shows him the puzzle spread out all over the table. He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says:
“First of all, no matter what we do, we’re not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a rooster.” Then he takes her hand and says, “Secondly, I want you to relax. Let’s have a nice cup of tea, and then…” and he says this with a deep sigh…
“Let’s put all the Corn Flakes back in the box.”
Three seniors are out for a stroll. One of them remarks, “It’s windy.” Another replies, “No way. It’s Thursday.” The last one says, “Me too. Let’s have a soda.”
On an overseas flight, a lawyer and an older man were in adjoining seats.
The lawyer asked the senior if he’d like to play a little game. The older man was tired, and he told the lawyer he only wanted to sleep.
But the lawyer insisted the game was a lot of fun.
“Here’s how it works,” he said. “I’ll ask you a question. If you can’t come up with the answer, you have to give me a dollar. Then it’s your turn to ask me one. But if I can’t answer it, I have to give you $20.”
The senior figured if he just got this over with, maybe he could get some sleep. So he agreed to play.
The first question from the lawyer was “How far apart are the earth and the moon?”
The senior stayed completely silent, reached for a dollar, and gave it to the lawyer. Then he said, “My turn. What walks upstairs backward and comes downstairs forward?”
The lawyer was stumped. He thought and thought. He tried to remember all the riddles he knew. He searched every corner of his brain.
He even cheated and asked the flight attendants and other passengers.
Finally, he gave up. He woke up the older man and gave him a twenty. The senior stuffed the twenty in his coat and immediately went back to sleep.
The lawyer couldn’t stand it. He woke up the older man and said, “I have to know. What walks upstairs backward and comes downstairs forward?”
The senior got out his wallet, gave the lawyer a dollar, and went back to sleep.
- – – – – –
Old folks live in a different society. Virtually none of them work and have days to fill. Memories and maladies are their stock in trade which leaves them free to invent their own world, their own way to cope.
One thing seniors do very well is remember entire family trees that go back to the Cleveland administration and even sometimes to the first President Adams. They consider it fun to debate each other to prove what really was the name of the son of Sadie Mathers who was divorced from the uncle of Harry Thompson who lived in the green house next to the Smiths – the family everyone was really talking about.
Younger folk often aren’t aware of the reality that seniors experience. There are simple things, somewhat debilitating but not worth advertising: that bit of arthritis that keeps the hand from lifting the fry pan; weakened sphincters that require Depends or antacids; a hip that can’t be repaired because they don’t earn enough at the part-time job to take time off for an operation; slack muscles that can’t keep one’s balance when they walk – requiring a cane or walker; the waning vision and hearing that reduce social interaction; months or even years coping with impending death, and, despite excellent memories of people long past, dealing with confusion about the last ten minutes.
The mariner is an old fogey, too. It grates him that those with the power to support seniors, to give them ease from time to time, to prop up their self esteem and financial security, instead ignore them. Mariner speaks of governments who bargain with health services as if they were auctioning tobacco and too many would shut down all senior entitlements if they could. He speaks of pharmaceutical providers that have worse social ethics than big banks. He speaks of insurance companies who are more interested in profit margins than proper benefits and coverage. He speaks of the entertainment industry that marginalizes senior’s television shows because advertisers want shows for younger folk who still spend money.
Mariner knows an elderly man who still has a sharp mind but is crippled and subject to seizures. His daughter, unemployed, did not want him to stay in her home. The other daughter did not maintain much contact with the father. One day, the two daughters put the man in the car and dropped him at a nursing home. No one thought to pack clothes; no one thought about the nursing home environment. No one asked the elderly man what he thought. Did the man feel like he was trash taken to the dump? No doubt.
The daughters were excessively thoughtless but an underlying chasm exists between younger, purposeful, healthy, engaged-in-life folks and senior citizens who virtually live in a different dimension. The young know newer things, absorb the leading edge of culture while the old folk know older, well, useless things and cannot fathom nor participate in the leading edge of culture. Even a horse put out to pasture has a better daily life than too many lonely, ailing, dying seniors.
The worst prejudice is one we don’t know we have. Mariner fears that such a prejudice sits between the young folks and the old folks – even with parents and other relatives. One forgets, or perhaps doesn’t even know, how much an old person has contributed to the betterment and stability of the young person’s world. One example that is seen frequently is the lame old guy looking for handouts. No one knows he was a war hero awarded the Medal of Honor. All seniors are heroes. They have laid down their lives for the betterment of society.
Consider old people when you vote for every office on the ballot in 2016.