Tuesday, December 6, 2011

fun from the past

I don't really qualify as old, quite yet.  Lynn read Mary Pipher's "Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders" quite a few years ago.  That is where she learned of the distinction, evidently in wide use among those who work with aging, between "young-old" and "old-old".  Doing a little searching on the web, I find that Bernice Neugarten, invented the idea that some of the elderly are rather like younger people in their abilities.  At any time, physiology or accidents or disease can change the picture and the older person is then frail (an excellent term for both the condition and the perception) and limited in physical and mental abilities.  

Older people, "elders" is a convenient term, are well-known for telling others about their physical problems. often at greater length or in more detail, than others really want to hear.  I have already admitted on this blog that I have changed from being impatient with body-ache talk to being interested in it.  I realize that is a clear sign I am different from what I was 50 years ago but my hair, skin and other parts of me had already clearly indicated that much.

My mother's vision and hearing were quite poor in her late years and I have been thinking about arriving at the same state.  I see that talk about senior years and experiences often refers to memories.  Again, as with pains talk, I have considered memories a poor substitute for actual experiences.  Sure, I am aware that I have never really seen but only decoded nerve impulses sent in from my eyes nor heard anything other than my brain's decoding aural impulses.  Still, I though reminiscence a watery, unsatisfying pastime.

Then, in thinking about little kids' reaction to repeated story readings, I got a new respect for the experience of remembering.  I have known that going back to a neighborhood I lived in could be very satisfying.  It was upsetting when I saw that my childhood local public library had been changed into a church.  But when I could see that the house in the country had aged and was painted a different color but basically was indeed what I remembered, it felt good.

When we tried taking index cards for the major event of each year we have been married, we could immediately recite and agree on some major events and the year they happened.  Some whole years, 365 days, were lost.  Something happened in that much time that was a strong plus or minus but what?  When we did find a note or diary entry that provoked a memory, it again felt good.  I don't plan to note every little thing that happens.  I am willing to toss many old letters and scribblings but I do know that re-experiencing a triumph or a love or an achievement can be great.  I am there again but I also have the satisfaction of knowing that the event actually happened, that is has been good all the time since it happened.  Like a cool event in a thrilling movie, it is exciting and admirable but in these memories, I am the hero, the winner.  No wonder I like going there.

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