Old Age Isn't For Whimps
I have been interviewing all the members of my congregation who are 90 or older in preparation for a service on the Wisdom of the Elders. It has been really wonderful, if tiring and time-consuming. Yesterday I was with M., who is a gorgeous 96 year old and she couldn't remember the name of her favorite piece of music. We sat in silence for awhile while she fretted and failed to remember and I said, "Well, it'll come to you. Let's think about something else."
About a half an hour later she furrowed her brow and said, "I can't believe I don't remember the name of Handel's Messiah!"
I waited for a moment then and managed to say with a totally straight face, "I know. I'm so sorry that you can't remember that your favorite piece of music is Handel's Messiah."
She totally cracked up.
By the way, this is Sari's grandmother. She looks harmless but I believe she used to fill tin cans with poison and nail them to the porch railings for the squirrels to eat. Ms. G, did I get that right?
Don't kid yourself with the Sweet Old Lady thing. These people are survivors.
One of the most thought-provoking but obvious facts that I got from the interviews was best expressed by a 91-year old man who said, "There was a time we didn't even have a town dump. We didn't need one. Everything we got came in a brown paper sack or wrapping, and everything we used came in bottles that we refilled. We didn't generate any garbage to speak of. Nowadays everything we bring into the house, half of it goes back out in the garbage." Ay-yup. I just put out my own garbage and recycling and for one single chick who doesn't even subscribe to any newspapers, it's ridiculous to have six bags of paper and three plastic bags of cans and containers. Most of the paper recycling is junk mail and catalogs, of course. I'm going to hire a personal secretary just to manage the bloody catalog cancellations.
By the by, I recommend this recent issue of The Atlantic, which has a fine article called "The Coming Death Shortage" by Charles C. Mann. If you have fond memories of Kurt Vonnegut's short story, "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," you'll read it with a great sense of appreciation.