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The days of senior moments (09/13/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
There comes a time when even the most well oiled mind gets rusty and stalls. What’s weird is that one can often recall bits and pieces of the distant past, even experiences that seemed insignificant at the time, and not remember what happened a week ago.

Reminiscences of “the days of wine and roses” ( way back to the movie with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick) bring tears to the eyes. For others it might be more like “the days of beer and pretzels, “ or “the days of lifestyle and diaper changes,” or maybe way out in the back forty in “the days of moonshine and shotgun weddings.”

“The days of Mom’s comforting arms and Jesus loves me:” Memories left to nostalgia explode like kaleidoscopic eruptions never exactly the same - familiar sidewalk cracks where roots of violets seemed to be stronger than concrete, and steep, wood bleachers echoing with youthful racket at school basketball games, swinging in the massive shadow of our backyard maple (with Mom on the fringe of sight hanging laundry on rows of clothesline) and scraped knees peeking from under our flowered cotton, church dresses.

“The days of fireflies and hayrides:” As flashbacks nudge and tease through stale, idle hours, they bring back those carefree antics with youthful “friends forever,” an escape from the chill of emptiness and a nagging grip of fear for an uncertain tomorrow. During frighteningly vacant nights, there’s little comfort that it’s always better in the light of day. Being alone is not always lonely all the time. Those with the most vivid memory banks smile more!

“The days of freckles and stolen kisses:” Those long-lost boys and girls of lackadaisical summers return in daydreams to mock elderly bodies, their vitality and will stranded back in those sensuous, starburst skies, the embracing, heady aromas of cool, evening grass and clover, rendezvous with fellow-adventurers, as their voices turned to whispers with forbidden notions, where moon shadows masked emotions rising to the surface of adolescence.

Impatience is a side effect of old age. Maybe the elderly have painfully waited in far too many lines in their lifetimes, and have been pushed aside by more faceless sneers than they care to recall, dismissed as worn rejects who have outlived productive and vital places in a careless, impetuous society. One could laugh at the absurdity of the deterioration of aging if only compassion would surpass cruelty. It seems disgraceful to end up retreating to “days of bedsores, wheelchairs, and contemptible stares.”

Every mind should harbor wild places to retreat to when life’s unsettling reality and ill health become unbearable. We must seek constructive solitude occasionally, at every season of living, in order to hone our own virtues. We can’t give what we don’t have.

Senior citizens aren’t always trusted by family to make their own decisions. In her book “Grace -Eventually,” Anne Lamott writes about an eighty-year-old friend who agreed to sell her beloved house because then her family and friends wouldn’t have to worry about her. She confided in Lamott, imploring her for advice.

Lamott writes, “Everything in me wanted to save her. But instead, I did an incredible thing, something I have not done nearly enough in life: I did nothing. Or at any rate, I did not talk. Miserable and desperate to flee, I listened instead.” Then Lamott asked her what she wanted to do. The confused woman’s gratitude soared as she was made to realize that she did have a choice…she would know when it’s time to let go.

It’s far more compassionate to kindly hold a hand, give an understanding hug, a reassuring pat on the back, or a comforting word, even if you might say the wrong thing, than it would be to stay away.

Seniors are our most loving, practical, knowledgeable, witty, devoted, amusing, candid, understanding, and gutsy individuals everywhere! Living from moment to moment, day-to-day, one learns to appreciate more and to expect less.

“The days of making outrageous memories” linger on their minds and in their hearts.

Dream on!

Janet Burns has lived in Lewiston all her life. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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