by Audrey Barclay
Senior Citizens. I don't think I care much for the appellation, even tho' I fall in that category myself. It's only a sop to ease guilty consciences of those who claim it is meant to add more dignity to those who have grown old, but to whom aged parents--perhaps--or others have become a drag on their own activities, a ball-and-chain.
Naturally, age has a way of slowing down physical activities, but age alone does not dim the mind; often mental faculties become sharper with age if not affected by disease. And who is to say exactly when an individual becomes a "Senior Citizen"? Is it when he becomes eligible for retirement for his work, a specific age, but continues to work for pay, or the lady who becomes widowed a few years before she is old enough for Social Security or a widow's pension based on her husband's retirement plan? Just when?
I've known many who, age-wise, have many years to go before retirement, yet their actions would indicate they must be eighty if they're a day. I also know any number of people who have lived long beyond the Biblical three-score years and ten who are as active and alert as anyone. And intriguing company for the stories of the past they sometimes relate. I'm thinking now of a pair of sisters whom I shall call Julia and Donna. Both are in their eighties, Donna being eighty-eight. They are the darlings of our church. Donna has had to yield largely to illness, altho' she does get out on special occasions, and frequently calls some of us just to visit via telephone. Julia is spry as the proverbial cricket and full of fun and good humor. She seldom misses being in her place in church on Sunday. It's true they had a heritage of longevity. Their mother celebrated her 109th birthday. She was 102 when she walked down the aisle to present herself for membership in our church after moving into our community.
Only a month ago a man I've known nearly 60 years suffered a broken leg, developed pneumonia, and died. He was a physician and had continued practicing until 6 mos. previously. He was 85 years old. A Senior Citizen? You bet! But not in the sense in which the designation is generally used.
Last night a long-time friend called me for some assistance. She is nearing 76, but still very active in her church. She is in the process of preparing a program for a special service and, knowing my interest in old songs, she tho't I might help her with one she wished to use in her program. (Fortunately, I could.)
From my own observation I'd say there are about as many aches and pains attacking the younger generations as we oldsters have to contend with, and they groan just as loudly and long. I contend a pain is a pain, whomever--and wherever--it hurts, so why get all up-tight if an old person complains?
Yes, I'm definitely opposed to being categorized as a "Senior Citizen," when I'm just a lonely old woman who sometimes yearns for an evening--or afternoon--of attention--well, entertainment, if you will--from someone of my many offspring. I enjoy games as much as the next fellow, I enjoy matching wits with younger people, but do I ever get the chance?
They talk about evenings of games with friends, but when I'm invited into one of the homes simply because it's time to fulfill a parental obligation--huh uh. I'm made to realize I'm only that ball-and-chain, to be cast aside at the earliest possible moment. I suppose that's why it gags me to be called a "Senior Citizen." Why not just stick to the old way and call us "old people"?
The various clubs that have been formed for our benefit are only to keep us out of the way of younger people, like quieting an infant with a rattle or a teething ring. It eases consciences and makes those promoting the project feel very proud of their strategy. But how many are there who really reap any benefits from such clubs? There are far more who, like myself, are unable to participate in such activities. Transportation is my big problem, as I'm sure it must be of others. I couldn't support a car on my meager income, nor can I afford taxi fare. And it's too far to walk!
No doubt I'd enjoy a session with one of the club groups now and then, but there are other activities I'd like to attend, if only someone cared enough to accompany me two or three evenings a year. There are concerts and plays, but I dare not go out alone at night.
The only recreation I have is TV, and I never turn that on during the day. I sit alone in the evenings with one eye on the set and play solitaire until I'm bored stiff. I like to read, but visual problems prevent much of that.
Senior Citizens? Bah! Sour grapes? Perhaps. But people, a small amount of attention--and please, for love's sweet sake rather than because it's a duty--might someday pay big dividends when you become an OLD man or woman yourself. As you surely will, if you live long enough.
Editor's Note: Please know that I meant no disrespect when I titled this post. It's just that all of Grandma Audrey's writings we've read up until now (with the exception of "The Doll Story") have shown the lighter, happier side of her personality. Not to discount Grandma's complaints in this essay (she made some good points), but the peevishness of it just tickles me. I realize I was only 16 the last time I saw her, but it feels so darn good to finally, finally read something she wrote that reflects a different side of her personality I remember. Grandma was a real person, with real feelings, and, as I recall, she didn't hesitate to share them. If this is a place where we're all going to get to know her better through her own words, let's appreciate her for who she really was--warts and all.
I also think Grandma's sense of humor was probably sharp enough that she could take a joke, so unless you tell me I'm wrong about that (and maybe even if you do), I'll keep that smart-alecky title and up the ante a little bit: Click here to listen to the song that began to play in the back of my mind about midway through this essay.
And, yes--before you feel the need to point it out to me--I know: I'm already 70, and I might one day eat these words.