"Old" takes on a new meaning when you travel with it. At age 57 ,I was the youngest person on board a bus headed for Tunica, Mississippi. Some of the people were so old, Father Time has nothing on them. Some were around before horses, much less automobiles. Why, 80 was nothing. And 70 is thought of as a mere child. Still, whoever believes the elderly arenÕt active ainÕt been on board a bus headed for a gambling parlor.
I increasingly find myself spending more time with older folks. I think I like hanging around them because theyÕve fought the battles and survived: survived kids, catastrophic illnesses, sexist employers, wars, broken promises, bad times and poor luck. But they keep on going, keep on hoping, they keep on getting up each morning feeling good about having another day.
Hell, to tell you the truth, I can hardly keep up with them. I can only hope that IÕm still alive at 75, much less taking a trip to Tunica.
I donÕt see wisdom coming from many places nowadays, but I know where to find it. I get something essential listening to the stories of older adults that helps me to find my way through life. I like the oral tradition. ItÕs better than books or movies or the internet. I like hearing things from the source. I like being able to watch them, ask them questions, touch their shoulders, somehow hoping that some of that wisdom, that fortitude, that adaptability, might just rub off.
Of course, there is the down side of growing old. If I could have corralled all these old people into a nursing home, IÕd have been in business. But they wouldnÕt have gone without a struggle. There is an old Sufi saying that two veils separate us from the divine — health and security. When we lose our health and must face the insecurity of needing help, we may be overtaken by anxiety and despair. We usually go kicking and screaming.
We passed the time playing bingo, which I should have been more prepared for. I didnÕt have a chance. Some of the people were professionals. And the trip was pretty drawn out due to frequent potty breaks. In the column of comparing medical ailments, I was able to keep up pretty well, which I donÕt think was a good thing.
Still, all things being equal, I admire the elders with a passion. Maybe itÕs because IÕm getting older myself, and hope someone takes the time and interest to listen to me and my stories. Maybe its because there are soon to be so many of us, with the baby boomers about to start turning 62. In a world that is sick and needing to heal itself, we need the wisdom of the elders to survive.
So hereÕs to you Dorothy and Buddy, Lorraine and Bill, Dottie and Feree, Jim, Juanita and Ron, Lois and Jack. It was my pleasure traveling with you. Keep telling those stories. And keep getting up in the morning.