Welcome to “MIllenial Memoirs: And Other Things I’ve Learned Working with the Elderly”. Today’s lesson is Dancing Wasn’t Invented Yesterday.
One of our residents passed away in the last year who I’ll call Sally. Sally worked as a stay at home mom and spent most of her adult life raising her daughter. Amidst that she was well travelled and well educated. Her husband contributed to local government, and they were both very involved with their community. What I admired most about Sally was her flexibility towards aging. When I first met Sally (who had just recently lost the companionship of her latest boyfriend) she was reading her Kindle. I asked her if she needed anything, and she told me she would be just fine as long as she could play on her Kindle. In an industry where most residents feel paralyzed by technology and apprehensive to change, I was very impressed.
One day, I was talking with Sally and she told me how much she loved white wine (I believe Sauvignon Blanc’s and chardonnays were some of her favorites) and then she started talking to me about Drambuie and mixed drinks. She told me about all the people she and her husband would meet and their adventurous nights out.
As ridiculous as this sounds -- I was shocked. Of course -- she drank white wine. Of course she drank drambuie. Of course she had friends who she would drink and dance and socialize with. Why wouldn’t these be things she enjoyed? Because she was older and I somehow thought the older generation hadn’t encountered these things? Like alcohol and going dancing were invented yesterday?
No--history repeats. When one stops to realize this, it’s easy to feel a transcendence that we’re all coming from the same place and going to the same place . It’s easy to forget this but sometimes when you sit with the elderly for a bit, you start to realize how small, yet significant you are in the grand scheme of things. On one end, you’re just a dot in the line of humanity, and nothing really new has happened. On the other end, you’re a dot in the line of humanity and without you that line is missing a piece.
Working with the elderly has taught me that we were all young once and we’ll all be old eventually. That fact has an oddly sobering effect on just how valuable one views human life and and the cycle of one’s own human experience. It allows one pause to zoom out and view that every human’s life is a timeline. And one begins to see where he is on his own timeline and how to live that life to the fullest.
In that regard one becomes more mortal, and when that happens he becomes more grateful. Sitting with Sally, finding out more about her flourishing life, realizing how similar it was to mine at one stage and how similar mine might be to hers one day -- made me incredibly grateful for the stage I’m in and for the opportunities and the rich lives we each have ahead.