Homebound on a snow-clogged day in Southeastern Pennsylvania, am over-the-moon that the US Post Office took itsmotto to heart & delivered our mail. Including two books recently reviewed by the New York Times – – The End of Old Age, by Marc E. Agronin, MD & Happiness is a Choice You Make, by NY Times writer, John Leland. I’d spent a good part of the day returned to a book that helped set my life on its present path – Another Country, by the marvelous Mary Pipher. Even before the books arrived just a few moments ago, I’d set down to write this posting.
My reality is that my greatest value is at not creating anything of single-purpose value with my life. My greatest glory has always been found in being the generalist who does something for the sake of what works for all, rather than what has the greatest return for myself.
I am unrepentantly impractical.
When I worked for business big wigs – US Healthcare, Prudential, BISYS Financial Services – my greatest kudos & highest honors came out of doing what went against corporate culture, from connecting clients the top tier exec best suited to resolve a problem beyond my solving to speaking up to those top brass when the good of the company seemed at stake to placing more importance on results than on how much time I spent with each client than meeting allotted time. In each of those cases, doing what made no sense was the most sensible thing to do & won recognition accolades honors
Have come to embrace myself as a reader-activist. Doesn’t make heaps of money & means that getting to conferences & workshops – next month’s Lyceum Positive Aging Conference, early August’s Bryn Athyn College writing workshop, late August’s Pioneer Network Conference, October’s National Center for Creative Aging Leadership Exchange & Conference – means belt tightening & fund raising. It’s how I roll.
What I’ve discovered since 2014 – – most folks who focus on a single interest lack time to read the latest books, to uncover the gem on the internet or in a newspaper..
The hospice chaplain who has neither the time nor the energies to stir up an interest in reading The Divine Art of Dying, a book that goes to the very heart of what she does & why.
The family caregiver who has neither the time nor the energies to stir up an interest in reading Another Country or Wendy Lustbader’s heart-opening, What’s Worth Knowing.
The professional dementia care provider who has neither the time nor the energies to stir up an interest to read Jolene Brackney’s Creating Moments of Joy.
The older elder ancient who has plenty of time but perhaps lacks the eyesight or the confidence to ask to read to him Ram Dass’, Still Here.
I urge this person to check out Stephanie Dowrick or that one to take a look at a Mel Robbins TED talk, or suggest a Todd Henry video to another. It can seem unreasonable, but I’ve found that listening to a mix of thought leaders outside of our specialty can bring greater breadth depth effectiveness to what we do.
Fate put me in this unexpected role. We have no children, no elders of our own to care for, no family duties. My friends, with younger parents than mine (Mom was a “make your own” grandma, almost 43 when I was born), turn to me for advice. And I have an unusually deep bench of eldering role models & mentors.
My childhood, young adulthood, middle age was steeped in circles of my mother’s friends, quite a few of whom saw in the 20th century. Poppop & “Grandma” Rose were both born in 1890; Miss Phoebe Bostock, for whom I did housework for several years – born in 1887; Solange Iungerich Howard, ditto housework – born in 1882 (never realized she was a cradle robber – Wilfred Howard was born 1884!).
Poppop & Grandma were the closest I ever got to having my own grandparents. Through Miss Phoebe & Mrs. Howard, who shared stories with me over mid-morning breaks, I saw a time before cars & other conveniences I took for granted.
Miss Phoebe had clear memories of & definite opinions about my maternal grandparents – – she supported what I’d always heard from my mother about her dad – she thought the world of my grandfather, who died when Mom was 19. My grandmother – she was another story, a woman Miss Phoebe held to be a singularly nasty piece of work. Can still see her face & hear the tone of her voice, sitting at the kitchen table, as she described each.
It was through Miss Phoebe, who became the community nurse, that I got a first-hand, small town experience of the worldwide 1918 “Spanish Flu” epidemic.
My early loner nurture resulted in what are now blessings. Where other friends headed out on dates, I was chauffeuring my widowed mother to her pre-Friday Supper cocktail soirees with Grandma, Miss Cornelia (1889), Viola Ridgway (late 1800s) & other wondrous elders. Where it was rare that John & I went to social events without Mom along with us – to our delight & hers. Where the ministers – Cairns Henderson, Elmo Acton, Willard Pendleton – who influenced my views of my birth faith were rooted in a more liberal sense of what made our faith tick.
“Take no thought for the morrow…”
“For peace has in it confidence in the Lord….”
Growing up, I didn’t just recite those passages – I believe them. They are the root of my core impracticality & deep belief in spirit. Of my sense of being called to return to reading voraciously, something I did throughout my grade school years, that I walked away from in high school & didn’t return to until 2012. Of my love of serving as a connection, of empowering others, of engaging with all ages & celebrating community. Of instigating change & instilling confidence.
On this snow-clogged day, I am so grateful to be a reader, a connector, a light heart looking to help do the heavy lifting of creating new ways & restoring old means of connecting across between among generations. Of taking a ridiculous level of joy & deep glee in being the best sort of disruptor – as so many readers have in the past!
Turns out that everything in my past & my present puts this reader/instigator in the right place to pull together The Whole Elder Catalog. The skills? No. The vision? Absolutely! My eye is on creating a rich resource that all can use, from family caregiver to older elder ancient to geriatricians & gerontologists. Dream big, dream wild, then ACT.
It’s a passion & a purpose for which this reader-activist has the most incredible team of ghostly cheerleaders & under-the-radar rabble rousers urging me onward,upward. Ever forward!