It's an old person game and I love old people. I love their papery skin, their watery eyes, their shaky hands. I love when they jest with one another (especially a couple that has been married more than forty years), when they sing songs they sang in elementary school, and when they become exasperated with modern changes. I love their movies, their stars, their clothes, and their goodness. Mostly, though, I love their stories. I can sit at my grandmother's feet for hours as she talks about her life. It isn't too hard to get them going. They are just as sick of talking about their bunions and diabetes as you are sick of hearing about it. Sometimes the elderly get lost in their ailments, but ask about their first house or their first child or their older sister and they become a completely different person. Their eyes light up, they smile, they wave arthritic hands in the air and scoot to the edge of the seat on their walker. Sometimes tears will come and you'll get the chance to feel with them the loss of their livelihood or sweetheart or baby. Your heart may break as they describe their loneliness or feelings of depression because of their whole spirits stuck in broken bodies. Our grandparents are so full of good information and helpful advice. I rarely leave a conversation without payment of one kind or another. I just love old people.
When my children were small, I had a stroke of genius. I decided that during the day, when my children were all in school, I would go play Pinochle with the old people. Once a week, say, I'd go and play for a hour and a half. I'd get my fix of stories, advice, and love and maybe I could help them think about something besides their pain. Maybe we'd even laugh a bit.
Then I decided to home school. There will never be a "when my children are all in school."
The other night, my son's scout pack delivered gifts that they had purchased with extra fund-raiser money to the Veteran's Home in our town.
The boys sang a few carols and then handed out packages filled with cologne, sugar-free candy, socks, and so on. I found a seat and started chatting with a fella about the Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movie that was on. We had a right jolly ol' time. In that twenty minute conversation, he expressed how depressing the nursing home was. He had lived a vivacious life for ninety years and here he was stuck in this stinky, lonely place. We shook our heads and smiled as he told me about his daughter making him hire someone to do his lawn and then, after he quite working in his yard, he had his first heart attack. He told me about his wife's death twelve years ago. With tears in his eyes, "Damn, I loved that lady." You get awfully used to a person after forty-nine years, I suppose. Then, when he opened his gift and found cologne, tears came to our eyes for a different reason. With riotous laughter, we read the label: For the rugged adventurer. The fragrance of seduction, blah, blah, blah. The dude was nearly one hundred years old. He weren't lookin' for no "rugged adventure!"
I came home resolved to find a way. I need them. They need me. We all love Pinochle.
For the New Year.