Thinking as the Darkness Wraps Around Me

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!


10 thoughts on “Thinking as the Darkness Wraps Around Me

  1. I don’t think about it often. Every once in awhile it creeps into the front of my brain where I have to acknowledge it. I don’t want to be my grandmother sitting in the chair in a run down apartment waiting for the person from Meals on Wheels to put her plastic covered food on her tv tray. I’m afraid of housedresses and not wearing makeup and the trip in the back seat of the sedan to the place where they leave you tied to your chair in the anteroom with the other people who smell stale. I don’t want to be my father when they tested him and he didn’t know what year it was and everyone looked at each other and nodded slightly. I am terrified when I wake in the night and momentarily don’t know where I am. I am so afraid one day I will forget how to laugh and no one will be there to help me remember.


    1. It isn’t fair to write that all this isn’t possible, because anything is possible and that is why we need to be ready for it during the time we enter the twilight of life. If you don’t then, well there is a good chance of all bad things happening. I think as I mentioned in the past keep using that brain for things you really have to think out and it will help!!! My grandmother was just like yours. Sat in that damn chair and never moved just cause she was old and had arthritus. Aging is such a personal and varied experience for all and one person can’t assume to know the others background or feelings……..but I do have faith in you and I will leave it that at dear, linda. My best to you Frank


  2. I agree Frank,
    Neither one of my parents were the kind to sit in a chair waiting for their end. They only became stationary after illness (my mom had cancer) or total disability.

    However, the song does remind me of my mother’s father. He was a farmer with arthritis. He sold the family farm when he was 65 and moved to town. I remember him sitting in the same chair by the picture window across from the elementary school. I don’t remember him ever just taking a walk or move during the time I was there…I thought there was something more wrong with him that just arthritis…I think that when he took to his chair, he was waiting for the old silver clock to run out of time.

    In my 30’s, I saw a very attractive lady working in a furniture store. She was in her 50’s and I remember thinking that I want to look like her when I get her age. She looked good.

    I can honestly say that one of the benefits of Dan’s illness was for me to shed almost 70 pounds and, now that I am my 50’s, I look good. I just have to stay healthy and active.

    (I can still sprint after a fleeing autistic 5 year old better than the 22 year old teacher’s aide…) I intend to do this no matter how old I get…

    What do you say, Frank…let’s give the next generation something to talk about?! and it won’t be the “Silver Clock”.


    1. You are one of the lucky ones…….you lost 70# and let’s see I gained 30#, but if I want to be honest its more because twice I lost and gained backed. Ah you will be tht lady in the store no doubt!!
      That’s good!!


  3. Aging is something I try to ignore, I guess. I don’t feel much different today than I did when I was 18, until I look in the mirror and see the wrinkles around my eyes and the additional __ lbs. (I can’t even type that number…it’s too shocking to me to think I’ve gained so much weight.) I feel it when I get up in the morning, too.

    My dad is in a nursing home. He sits in his wheelchair and scoots himself along the hallways to go outside and smoke (despite the fact that he’s had cancer on his vocal cords at least twice already) and to the cafeteria for meals. He watches television and sometimes surfs the web. The reasons for his disabilities are vast and varied, but suffice it to say that most, if not all, of it has been self inflicted in one way or another. It’s sad, really, because my uncle is the only one that really goes to see him. I used to when I lived in the same town, but now I’m 1000+ miles away. My siblings refuse to go visit him. I understand their reasons. He was never much of a “dad” to any of us. But it still makes me sad that this man, who I know was a very intelligent, talented, caring person has been transformed into a weak, almost helpless old man. He’s only 71.

    Whenever I get to see him I think how sad it is that his life consists of so little. So few friends, so few family members who will visit, such a small scope of existence.

    I know that I don’t want to live my life that way…EVER! It scares me to think of growing old and being that helpless. I guess I need to think seriously about doing something about that NOW, while I still can!


    1. Well, sweet Lynda, it is a very depressing and very hard thing to think about, meaning growing older, particularly when you don’t feel the oldness. But it will be unfortunate if you don’t make some kind of plans or speak to your children or somebody of what you want and how you and Rob want to be handled. A living will only goes so far and then that family member or appointed one can change everything and you won’t even have the strength to know–so the picked person must be someone you trust. Fortunately Momma and I were close and it was even then so hard for me to do what she wanted when she realized her time was at the end. I still am so bothered by her last week and I shall be for ever. I know because you have a caring personality and a good heart that you, regardless of you and your father’s separateness, will suffer at his passing. You are sad now when you think and write of him. Work at resolving this as early as you can and then take a big step and say to Rob–it is time for us to talk about our end!! Isn’t that just terrible for me to say that to you?

      You have so much on your plate now with your job don’t add to it now, but don’t hide from it on some future date.

      Oh and before I forget, My, you have one good looking husband!!! And he write with the same heart you have!!! Take care and I will help you through the other whenever you want to get organized. Besides, you are a lot younger, but age doesn’t have anything to do with it!!
      My best my dear friend, Frank


  4. Oh can I relate to the silver clock song, but these days even the very sick elderly are much more vocal and difficult to please. Most do not go gently into that good night…

    But there is nothing sadder than watching someone sit and stare into space, with even a void of memories. I saw this at the nursing home, when my mom was there for rehab, and I wrote about it. I would like to share it with you, if you haven’t yet read it. Seeing them day after day, lined up in the hall in their chairs, brought me to the place of trying to capture what I was witnessing on paper. I can’t draw, but it was much like painting a picture of what I was seeing…but with words. Here is the link:

    Very good post, Frank. Sparkle


    1. Well, Sparkle, we are not going to have that silver clock at all. We shall team up together and show the world we can still go on as we age……no hallway for me!!


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