22 Comments

HIGH PERFORMING SENIORS


bathing ladies

These women with whom I spend time every month are tied together like knots in the rope mooring us to shared memories. We traveled in parallel lines in the long ago, touching base when necessary, but not really reaching the stage of complete truthfulness.

Knots“Knots” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Memory is a complicated thing. A relative of truth but not its twin. Ann Beattie says “People forget years and remember moments.” I’m sure that is true, because as we meet over lunch, moments of our pasts are revealed and relived by some but not all. “Where did we go for our Senior picnic, do you remember?” Several choices may be given, but who can be sure?

Our ballet dancer remembers marching a squad of ROTC boys straight into the railroad yard, whereas I, marching along beside her with another squad, have no recollection of it. Memory can be a squirrelly thing. Looking back I was clueless until the age of 50.

We are beginning to lose friends, but I’m at a time of my life when illness and death and grief aren’t the surprise visitors they once were. The casualties are increasing among the people I loved and even the people I didn’t love, but they still shock and unsettle you.

We had role models as young people, but none in old age. How do you learn how to be old? My friend says we are ‘high performing seniors’, and that seems good enough to me.

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22 comments on “HIGH PERFORMING SENIORS

  1. Your provocative question, ” How do we learn to be old?” does not really have an answer. I will observe that in my 43 years in the classroom–having taught from 4th grade to adult with a concentration on high schoolers, there were some very “old” young people and some very young old people.

    The real question is this: can we imagine ourselves not existing?

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  2. Now THAT’S a provocative question! All we need to do is watch the old movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And would the world be better if we didn’t exist? Have we contributed enough to our society for society to mourn our loss? All we can hope for is that perhaps there was some good in our existence.

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  3. “How do you learn how to be old?”—That’s a great question. Hadn’t really thought of that. Guess we do kind of fly by the seat of our pants on that one.

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  4. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about memory and how strange it is that we remember different things. And I feel like there are whole chunks of my life disappearing from my memories. I discovered recently that I was at school with someone I work with (well, he was at school with my younger brother actually, being two years younger) and as he started on a “remember so-and-so”, I found that I didn’t. Remember. At all. Funnily enough, he remembers my brother but my brother doesn’t remember him. I suspect that how we felt at the time of the experience has a bearing on the retention of memory. My brother wasn’t very happy at that school. Not traumatic enough to be burned into his brain but bad enough that he doesn’t want to remember.

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    • I too have chunks of my past which refuse to step forward. Surprisingly I find that my early childhood is quite clear, including names and places, yet the period of time after my children left home remains quietly veiled. I think many children would rather forget much of their schooldays. I have absolutely no memory of the 8th grade except that I was bulled by a group of girls and that we learned how a combustion engine worked that year.

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  5. How to learn anything? Never even mastered the two-step or fox-trot but managed complicated knots and great pancakes according to grandsons. Great story, Kayti, and painting. (I love the tinge of melancholia.)

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  6. Great poignant post and question, “how do we learn how to be old?”. I also like your observation about your friends not really reaching the stage of complete truthfulness. I guess we all have our barometers of a life well lived (or lived at all). One of mine concerns courage. You occur to me as a courageous human being. xx

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  7. I’m living what you describe in this post, especially this thought: “when illness and death and grief aren’t the surprise visitors they once were.” Thank you for expressing so well what I think and feel.

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  8. My mother never used the word “ain’t” and she wasn’t one to post things on her refrigerator. However, there came a time in her life when she stuck a big magnet on the refrigerator reading “Getting old ain’t for sissies!”

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  9. You write so nicely, so familiarly. It makes me feel as if I had a connection with you. Just today, I was wondering why, particularly with my children or my sister, they will remember something so distinctly, and wonder why I don’t remember it. It don’t think it’s my memory lapsing (at 67). I think it has more to do with the impact it had on the person who holds the memory. Who know what glues a memory in our brain — I can recall some things in full technicolor and there seems to be randomness to what I recall. Fascinating. I like your observation that we share “A relative of truth but not its twin.” Our own minds and feeling impact the our memories.

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  10. No writer ever had a nicer compliment Val. I think all writers want to develop a connection with their readers. I also believe the memory belongs to the other person. I recall so much of my childhood, but I’m sure no one remembers me as being part of their own memory. I also believe that memory is random. Lovely bits and pieces like a whirligig. It’s what makes sleepless nights so interesting!

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  11. I can’t say it any better Linda. Being old is a state of mind really. Some days I am 25 and some days I am old. An old tennis partner of mine my same age, while still upright, says she would just like to “go”. She is not happy. Another at 93, is younger than all of us. She wanted me to introduce her to an old fellow who lives near me with the hope of a friendship. I told her she would have to learn to shout because he is nearly deaf, and besides, he already has a girlfriend.

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  12. We’ve just lost an old friend. Helping him through the last months of his life took a lot of my time and physical energy. Now, I’m finding it difficult to “get back in the groove”.

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