Saturday, December 12, 2009

May your days be merry and bright

This has to be the most stressful time of the year for social and symbolically afflicted animals like us, when we are trying to change our way along. But I am pleased to be able to say that this year the stress is much less.

I went to a party last night, 16 people, a catered turkey dinner at the senior drop-in center where I go and volunteer, peel potatoes etc., the local good churchwoman (best friend of my mom) said grace, there was a party afterward in my mother's living room, most of the people there in their 80's, some corny games, some Christmas carols accompanied by one of the 80-somethings on a portable piano, a present exchange, three people (women) wearing identical red vests (- I was one - guess I'm blending in well around here, the kid of the bunch at not quite 60 yet). It all feels a weird combination of surreal (this is not my life, surely) combined with acceptance (really, it's not so bad, a bunch of older folk all living independently, manufacturing for themselves and apparently enjoying simple social pleasures, keeping each other going and cheered up in a safe, humble little prairie community). There were four men and a lot of widows. My own father checked out 9 years ago.

It's a nice gentle way to be passing time, hanging out with advanced seniors. Which is odd, because at younger ages I would have been bored out of my mind by this sort of repetitive socializing for the sake of socializing. I would have felt myself trying to burst out of invisible cages.

Instead I feel very welcome and nurtured by this group. Its members find lots of little ways to let me know that they like and appreciate my being there with them. I find myself open to accepting this without feeling uncomfortably vulnerable at the same time.

I have what I consider to be my "normal life," which to them is strange since none of them use computers, lived virtually, being online, studying, thinking, conversing by email/writing. The inner world of me.

I have this weird (to me) and yet oddly comfortable outer life now, my only peer group at the moment comprised of people my mother's age or close. Preferable IMO to living in an increasingly nasty urban jungle, full of darkness, lack of sun, fighting every day just to make myself stay there. I seem to have created a symbolic "child" world again, and my own mother is actually still physically present in it, part of it. I can feel long-lost parts of me lapping up this nurturing environment like thirsty camels lap up oasis water.

It slowly is dawning on me that it barely matters anyway, what I am or what I make or don't make of myself in the world. I never thought I'd see the day when personal existential angst would appear to comfortably recede or dissolve. Maybe it has to do increased light levels. Maybe with having managed to revisit "child" mode once again for a little while. Maybe a combination. Whatever. I remain acutely aware that one day I'll just slide right out of existence, but I feel detached about this in yet another new way for now, even as I anticipate attending many funerals in the coming years. Which won't involve fun probably. So for now it seems important to just relax, support these people and their gentle socializing for all the camaraderie and fun it seems to bring them, all I can, just for now. It's what is right under my nose at the moment. I can always go back to paid physical human primate social grooming, later.


Unknown said...

I also found this post quite fascinating. My parents lived far away and died young, so I did not experience being around older folks very much. Now Barbara's parents are 87 and 88 and lived in an assisted living facility near us.

At first visits there horrified me. The sights, sounds, smells, and the undeniable presence of suffering and eventual death converged to make me feel that it was difficult to even sit through a meal there.

Since that time, I have volunteered for some of the activities at the facility. I have come to see the old folks as real people, as individuals, and I can see a bit past their aging and ailments.

I feel exactly as you described: amazed that I am not painfully bored, and gratified to find myself welcomed and nurtured by the old folks.

The computer divide is a vast one between our age and theirs. I feel blessed to have squeaked into a cohort who at least see the computer and the internet as benefits rather than incomprehensible mumbo jumbo.

Diane Jacobs said...

Thank you for your juicy comment. Always a pleasure when you drop by.