The Saturday Morning Blogger – The Child Inside

The Saturday Morning Blogger – The Child Inside

James Barrington

 

When I was a child I hated visiting aged relatives in nursing homes. The places smelled like urine and death and the people were usually lost in their memories of a time sixty years ago. They seemed to see and talk with ghosts of people who were long dead. I often wondered why they continued to live.

As the years passed, I came to understand more about the aging process. My granddaughter recently made the observation to her mom (my daughter) “Does it ever strike you as strange that I’ve never known you as anything but ‘Mom’?” In a Town Meeting in New Hampshire a decade ago, a life-long resident in his late 60s or early 70s pointed out that the history of the town did not start when I arrived. Well, that was blatantly obvious, but it was a refreshing reminder to me from which I have learned a great deal.

Human lifetimes (even those that reach or exceed the century mark) are remarkably short in the span of eternity, even of the eight or ten thousand years when humans have been keeping records – some of which is still indecipherable to us. Yet we tend to think of history as beginning with our birth. Those who outlive us may think of us and things that are happening in this world that we did not live to witness. I suspect events on this earth will be largely immaterial to us once we cross the veil to the next (and true) reality.

These days, quickly approaching 65, I spend a lot of time visiting people in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living homes. My perspective is different than it was when I was a child. The first point is that senior assisted facilities are cleaner and fresher than they were when I was a child. They are generally brighter and try to bring cheer to the residents’ lives. Having been through almost ten years with my mother in a clean and airy assisted living home, I paid more attention and learned to see her neighbors in a different light. With my dad gone, I had much more meaningful conversations with my mother and learned things about her childhood and life before I was born that I had never known. I even learned interesting facts about her life while I was in my early school days. It was refreshing to realize that parents are people too.

Our children and grandchildren have been raised to appreciate older generations and not be afraid of people just because their skin is wrinkled, their hair is gray, and maybe their teeth are missing. Generations need each other. They are links in a chain that stretched across years and lifetimes.

 

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