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OBSESSION


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I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities between elderly people as well as the differences between the old and the young. You might think that is a no-brainer, but it isn’t really. My circle of friends includes all ages from a post-toddler to several ladies in their mid-90’s, so I am aware of these anomalies firsthand.

An elderly woman of 90 had a collection of old coins which in her mind were quite valuable. She fussed and fumed for several months to have someone take them to a coin dealer and assure her they were worth a few thousand dollars. Whenever she thought of it, she telephoned several times a day to get someone to take them. Finally they were taken and evaluated and discovered to be worth about their face value and not much more. The dealer bought them, and when she got the news and the money, she insisted and believed she could have gotten more. Similarly a small child will obsess about a lost toy or an implied promise of an ice cream until his parent is ready to disown him. It’s futile to try to convince either of them that it is useless to complain. It is what it is.

A gentleman living in a nursing home once asked a relative to make out his income tax for him. It was a simple one, and was returned to the old fellow promptly, who then insisted they had done it wrong, and he should get more money. With that in mind, he took it to a CPA, and when it was returned, it was found to be correct down to the penny. Even though he had been out of line, there was no apology given to his original helper. By the same token the ingratitude of children is well-documented, so we don’t need to get into that.

Both age groups and our canine friends have a similar sense of Time. Their need to “get it done immediately” is important to them. In either case, if they don’t get it done it will be too late. In the aged, that conception is understandable. The child and the dog only conceive of the Now. They live in the moment. And all are capable of throwing a tantrum if that moment passes.

The child and those at the opposite end of the spectrum often have a compulsive need to “do it themselves”. They reject help, even though it’s often needed. Old fingers and very young fingers aren’t as agile as they might be, and even though they may botch the job, they insist upon doing it themselves and then despair when their efforts are less than perfect.

At an early age little folk tend to babble a lot, as do the older generation. Any nearby human being is ripe for a conversation, and they view everyone as fair game. You can send a talkative kid to bed, but certainly not his grandparent. We have an adult grandson who once talked his way from the San Francisco Bay area to Diamond Lake, Oregon seemingly without taking a break.

Maybe this is the reason that small children and their grandparents have such a good relationship. Their similarities connect them. Their view of Life is open and willing to take a chance. The child hasn’t learned suspicion, and the old ones think nothing untoward will happen to them. Both are easy prey for a good con man or woman. Both have selective memories and hearing.

You might think that is a cynical viewpoint, but I find the comparison extremely interesting. We go through the various stages of Life either suffering or enjoying the same manifestations and thoughts.

It is considered necessary to sigh painfully and call the Senior years the “Golden Years”, or to complain collectively about the similar trials of poor health. It somehow connects that age group in empathy. In the poor health department everybody is probably right. Bodies like houses and cars, wear out, and eventually everybody has something. During my years as an art gallery curator, when asked what my job description was, I just said “I Pull, Patch and Paint”. Pull the nails from the last show, patch the holes and paint over. There is a lot of similarity.

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13 comments on “OBSESSION

  1. There is a lot there Kayti. I liked the story of the taxation return. It rings a bell. I would not obsess about that but do about other things. Losing my glasses sets me off like nothing else. I am not sure it relates to getting older. The genes play a big role. Dad used to get a fit if he lost his cigarettes or lighter. Milo got me out of bed at 4am this morning pretending to want to go to the loo outside. I opened the door, he sniffed the cold rain air and promptly went back to his cushion. GRRR.

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    • I imagine we hall have things which can send us off into a fit. It seems a major catastrophe to me if I lose something. A leftover from childhood I suppose. My navel officer father throughout his life was capable of a show of temper, but was the soul of kindness in many respects, which does prove it isn’t related to age alone. Charlie and Milo have much in common. If there is a sign of moisture in the air, he refuses to leave the doorstep no matter what his need. .

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  2. I forgot to mention that I loved your sculpture. Many years ago H and I visited Giacometti’s studio in Paris. Modigliani also worked in Paris. Your studio must hold a treasure trove of beautiful art.

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  3. Your sculpture is intense, concise and deeply expressive, almost musical in form. It tells of a feeling and pain we all share but are so rarely able to communicate. It really is a remarkable, and beautiful, work of art. One could easily become obsessive about it.

    Your words, in this instance, Kayti, are less impressive, I regret to say – for me, at least. You yourself wonder if you are too cynical. Where the sculpture touches on something that helps to define our humanity, your reflections over-generalise about people. Some in their later years are ungrateful, hypercritical and impatient, others generous, tolerant and long-suffering. Some children are noisy, selfish bullies, others are quiet, thoughtful, kind and loving. In truth everyone is a combination of all these traits and much more, so perhaps this pot should not call the kettle black!

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    • I showed the picture of your sculpture to Glen and she said, “Gosh!”. Yes, it has that immediacy.

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    • I’m happy you and Glynis enjoyed the sculpture. You understood the thought and feelings I had when I made her.

      Mea Culpa for the text. Of course you are correct Richard. It was an over simplification which was not my intent. I really am a nice old lady. I will try not to become a “pot”.

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      • I know you’re nice, but not so much of the “old”!

        Gregory Peck once told of a story by the British actor, James Mason. The mellifluous Englishman was in Dublin one day and was approached by an elderly lady. “Would you be James Mason in his later years?” she asked.

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  4. What a wonderful sculpture, so peaceful it would be well loved in my home. As always thought provoking words, thank you.

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  5. Beautiful, serene sculpture, Kayti. I agree with you about the similarities between the very young and the very old. What is missing with the very old is the expectation that the person will undergo further development, acquiring social and other skills. I once read somewhere that children get along with their grandparents so well because it is natural to love the enemies of one’s enemies. Now that’s really cynical!

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  6. I love the “common enemy” simile. Maybe it’s because sometimes the very old become a little childish themselves! A friend pointed out to me that old people have no more role models.

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  7. Oh, how I enjoyed the post. As my mother aged, I became her primary caretaker (dastardly phrase! but it will do), and I had to learn some new coping skills. One way I often coped was to silently remind myself that I was the adult in the room — and in a very real sense, I was. Many of the characteristics you mention here, my mother developed, and it wasn’t always pretty.

    However, creativity can overcome a good bit. She hated for me to travel, because of the ghastly things that surely would happen to me: murdered, raped, dead in a ditch and so on. One year, on Easter Sunday, she decided to express her disapproval of an upcoming trip by locking me out of her apartment. Well. What to do?

    In the end (after a half hour) I went back to her apartment, and yelled through the door, “I know you’re in there. If you don’t open this door in five minutes, I’m going to call the police, tell them I fear you’ve had a heart attack, and ask them to come break down the door to check on you.”

    Click.

    And you know, if I had so sum up my own childhood in a phrase, it would be, “Mother! I want to do it myself!

    The sculpture is wonderful, but I had the oddest experience when I saw only a portion of it in the email notice. The image was cut off above the eyes, and it reminded me in a flash of Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”. Isn’t it funny how such discrete details can link things in our minds?

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