‘Getting old is not for sissies’
“Old age is 15 years older than I am.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
Today is about the importance of being a good listener, especially if someone you care about is dealing with one of life’s traumas. Yesterday I was on the phone with Burt’s daughter, Robin, who is facing the loss of a very close friend from her childhood. I can relate to Robin’s pain because I’ve been through it myself. It seems the older we get, life keeps throwing us a curveball. As we ended the phone conversation, I mentioned concern about our aging dog, Charley. Robin listened carefully. Then she insisted I talk to her husband, Ron, who practices veterinary medicine in upstate New York. Five minutes later, Ron called, asked for details, and gave us some pretty sage advice about Charley – and questions I will now take to our local vet. While on the phone with Ron, we asked about his widowed dad who is doing amazingly well at age 93. Then Ron added, “Well, as my father likes to say, ‘getting old is not for sissies.’” Most of us have heard that expression and it makes us smile, but is also way too true. Suddenly this column had two subjects – the art of listening and the problems of aging.
That bit of elderly humor made me think of my mom as she grew closer to 90. She had lost her sight and most of her hearing, but not her sense of humor. I had taught her a silly poem when she was younger, and as hard as she tried to memorize the four lines, she could only repeat the last line – maybe because she considered it a tiny bit naughty. Here it is:
First you crawl and then you walk
Eventually you learn to talk
Pretty soon you start to stoop
Getting old is pigeon poop!
There are so many issues that remind us to pump up our listening skills with those we care about – those who are hurting emotionally, getting old, being widowed, slowing down or just waking up with aches and pains. Add to this those who are visually or hearing impaired. How about someone having to give up the car keys and be dependent upon others? If you live long enough, some of these things are inevitable. When you spend many years in a community, you obviously get to know a lot of people. Maybe you knew them as a couple and now you see them as half of that couple because they have lost a beloved mate. Perhaps you realize you are attending more and more funerals and memorial services. When you drive home (if you are still driving), you can’t help but be grateful for whatever abilities and blessings you still have. Burt and I are well aware we are in a passage of life that makes us really focus on the fact we still have one another to enjoy every moment of every day. We know this can change in a heartbeat, as it has for many people. I can’t even count the number of friends (most of whom are several years younger than me) who are presently dealing with an aging parent, a relative or loved one. A few still have both parents, but in either case, they can’t help wondering when the next shoe will drop.
I try to make time to listen to their stories and concerns because I’ve walked in their moccasins. We all need someone we can trust and be honest with while we vent our various worries and anxieties. Some times, we need someone to cry with – or laugh with.
It’s not easy finding any humor in these situations, but maybe a healthy human response is if you don’t laugh, you will end up crying. Fortunately, in my opinion, there is plenty of stuff flying around, especially on the Internet, that pokes fun at getting older. The following day brightener is for those of you who are dealing with one of life’s challenges and can use a laugh today.
• • •
An elderly couple had dinner at another couple’s house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen. The two gentlemen were talking and one said, “Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it highly.”
The other man asked, “What’s the name of the restaurant?”
The first man thought and thought and finally asked, “What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love – you know, the one that is red and has thorns?”
“Oh,” said the first man, “You mean the rose?”
“Yes, that’s the one,” replied the first man as he turned toward the kitchen and hollered, “Hey Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to last night?”
• • •
Take time to listen, folks, and when possible, find time for laughter.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her husband, Burt, their dog, Charley, and a shelter cat named Lap Sitter. Bobbie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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