OBSESSION


083

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.