Today is Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. I’m somewhat of an expert on Ancient relatives, myself. Not long after my grandfather died, my grandmother was ready to call it a day, so into a “home” she went–the first, of three. That means I’m inching my way toward two decades worth of elderly folks. And I’ll tell you now, retirement communities are nothing, if not fraught with peril. You never know when you’ll be rear ended by a wayward walker, or when you’ll need to dive into a fake ficus to avoid being run over by an electric wheelchair, driven by a crazed woman with purple hair. One must retain a constant state of vigilance. After all, you could be minding your own business when a fight erupts at the salad bar, or you find yourself the center of a ‘whispered’ conversation the likes of this:
Old Person 1: Have you seen that woman? She’s put on so much weight; she’s HUGE!
Old Person 2: Well, she says she doesn’t eat sweets.
Old Person 3: Well, she’s eating something–because she’s HUGE!
One spout too many, a few too many times waiting for one hundred years, and you might be tempted to miss the good stuff.
Lucky for me, I’ve seen that, too.
At the current ‘home,’ my grandma has taken up with a group of women we adore. At eighty-two years of age, my grandma is the baby; the others clock in at least a decade older. Phoebe, Zoe (Evelyn), Agnes, Lois, Dona, and Donna–the old girls. They’re admired and learned, with just enough spunk to keep things fun; they’re just the type of people we’d choose as friends.
Over the last few years, during meals and concerts, teas and conversations, they’ve taught us a thing or two about life:
Wear the shoes . . .
Dance, while you can . . .
Learn something new, every day . . .
Laugh, as much and as often as you can . . .
In other words, enjoy it.
When you’re young, it’s always something–you’re too fat or haven’t enough curves, your pores are too big, your lips too small, you’re too hurried, there’s not a thing to do. But the old girls are quick to remind: just enjoy it–enjoy the mere fact that you’re young (which, I might add, appears to be anything under the age of eighty).
So yes, the aged can teach us a thing or two. Why? Because they’ve been there. They’ve been through financial crises and mid-life crises; they’ve been through wars and rumors of wars; they’ve lived in freedom and had most of it taken away. Yet they continue on, as best they can.
In my book, that’s a pretty good reason to offer a little respect.