I am sitting in the dark as it wraps around me, except I am not at home, I am in our apartment in Phoenix. I can turn on the lights, but my old habit of writing in the dark lets me think better and as I sit here I can put on earphones and listen to my music and feel comfortable. I think that everyone has their unique place they go to that triggers thought. Each morning I arise very early, before the thought of dawn and I go to the computer to write and catch up on my emails.
Habits, such as my writing and thinking in the dark, are a part of everyone’s life–our lives are based on inner impulsion’s drawing us to do particular acts in unique ways. Think about what your life would be like if you didn’t have that private place to go to, or if that private place wasn’t respected. Fortunately, since I was a child, I have been able to enjoy an exclusive area without worry of intrusion.
Today as I write, “Old Folks” plays from the computer’s media player. The song is from the original, cast recording of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well. I have listened to this album since the mid 1970’s and never tire of it. I have the songs memorized and even when I didn’t play them for years, the lyrics remained with me. I enjoyed this collection of his songs because each are written with such poignant meaning. They are a great catalyst for forming thought.
Even before I ever thought about making a piece of art, going to art school, becoming engaged in the process of growing older, or planning the journey to my Crepusculum, the song, “Old Folks” triggered strange feelings in me and for years the story haunted me. It reinforced all of the kindness my parents taught me to show to someone who is elderly. It also, in the seventies, opened a door to some other person’s view of the elderly that was not sweet. The lyrics paint a far different picture of so many of our elderly today.
Brel’s old people do not talk too much. They have no illusions and their homes smell of time and old photographs. Their eye’s are always clouded by a tear and for most of their day they sit in a chair or remain in bed watching the old silver clock on the shelf that waits for that moment that will be their time to leave. Beautifully sung, you here that the old people only going out in the day arm and arm and if they do leave their house they are out to see someone who is older than they are. They go to say their good byes and they are aware that their world gets smaller each day. The song ends reminding the listener that the old people always go back to their chair and wait, as the silver clock ticks away the time until their own departure.
If you do not know “Old Folks” please click the audio button and listen to it–you won’t forget it!!
Even though, occasionally now and particularly in the past, many people believed in societal structure that said the elderly were to be seen as non-productive. Once, in the seventies, I visited family living at Century Village in Florida. Then, I accepted what I saw–it was in line with societies beliefs of the elderly.
Century Village is large with many apartment buildings that you need to drive the distance between. Along the road way were benches for residends to sit as they waited for buses to take them to a different buiding. The day we arrived the benches were filled by one or two couples, usually not marrie, usually two women together. Even though it was warm everyone had on sweaters, every one clutched a hankie, no one talked, and all had silver, blue or pink hair. After we arrived at our destination building the scene was duplicated again near the buildings. When someone spoke to you it was often to tell you of how terrible it was to watch their friends die. I have never been so glad to leave a place because during the time there all I could see were crocheted doilies under silver clocks while the residents sat in their chairs–day after day, not talking, just waiting—waiting for their day.
Now that I am the age that I am, hearing the lyrics reminds me of all of the people and family members that reached far into their eighties and never lived the life described by Jacques Brel. My Mother was very active until she was 84 and then continued with some limitations after her stroke until her last year. At eighty she traveled to Italy to visit her parents homes. She loved life and never looked toward the silver clock. During the last two weeks of her life, after spending too long a time not being able to function, she shared with my sister her anger that life had been taken from her and questioned how her sisters would still live. If changes could have been made to her health she would have been utterly happy to be able to enjoy many more day. That was not the case and then, and only then she acquiesced to her passing. Momma was like so many people that believed there is no reason to stop just because you were of a particular age. On Eon’s one of the members of the writer’s group I manage writes stories of her Mother that has as much zest for life as my Mother did.
Today, fortunately there are more people that understand that seniors are much better off keeping active. Fortunately, we have come a long way since 1970, and for the most part the elderly enjoy their lives.
I began this post referring to habits, those patterns of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. It also refers to the established disposition of the mind or character. Habits can be beneficial and detrimental and if you think about it, the way we viewed the elderly before and the way that many are now thinking about it is the first links that will break the older stigma that people of elder years live in homes smelling of time and sit in a chair waiting for time to pass for them to die. Please join me in supporting the idea that seniors and the eldest of seniors have much that they can still give society and that the busier they are the better they will be.!! This is a good thing to believe, particularly if you are near my age!! If you are, we need to be as active entering our twilight years as we can be and remain active just as long as we can. If we don’t, just think, they will want us to watch a silver clock…….
I am so glad I do not own a silver clock!