Dear Mrs. Bluth,
There is a grand myth going around about “the golden years” wherein one who has reached the sixties and seventies realize their dreams and make plans, take vacations and lunch with friends and do all those marvelous things they parked somewhere in their youth to marry, raise children and take care of home and hearth until said children are grown and out of the home. I am seventy-five years old, most of my friends have passed or in the process and my husband no longer has any interest to get out of his pajamas during the day, he just sits with his newspapers and news channels on the TV. The days go by and we wait for the kids to call for ten minutes to tell us what they’re up to, what the grandkids are up to and for a fraction of a second I am transported to a world of the living, with people who have purpose, doing things and mingling with people. For those precious few moments I am part of their lives, reliving experiences of motherhood, wifedom, vibrant and fulfilled, going to school dinners, involved in PTA, meeting up with friends and neighbors for kiddush on Shabbat. Now, my days are filled with service to my husband, which keeps me home most of the time. My most looked forward to outings are going for doctor’s visits and to the pharmacy. Grocery shopping has long ago lost its allure because food has become so expensive we’ve cut down consumption. I’m so bored.
Were it not for my arthritis, and my eyesight which has me seeing flying insects on occasion, OK, so my hearing isn’t so great either I’ve cut out the thought of driving, so I’m a prisoner in my own home. In my head though, I’m sharp as a tack. I do puzzles without problem, answer a good number of the questions on Jeopardy and I read two books a week. But I want more. I want to ‘do something’ , I need to feel needed and recognized for my skills which are still great and quite valuable in the business world. In short, I need to feel that I have a purpose in being, that I can still contribute and be counted on to do a job as well as any thirty-year-old.
All this has made me very bitter and taciturn, which I am not. I was always chipper, cheery and optimistic and everyone enjoyed my company as much a I enjoyed theirs.
But now, I have turned into a shrew, yelling at the paperboy for making me walk all the way to the curb to pick up the news. I argue with the mail lady for including everyone else’ advertisements along with my two monthly bills. I even bicker with my husband over the most ridiculous things, and then feel guilty for upsetting him. I don’t like myself, I want to find the person I used to be, at least close to who I used to be, and get back onto the carousel of life.
Maybe I’m expecting too much from you, because you are so much younger and don’t understand the drawbacks of getting old, but it is a sad place to be for someone who thinks she’s twenty five in her mind but her body screams ‘liar!’ Still, I am open to any suggestions you may have for me and will do almost anything to change the dreary, dull existence I’m caught up in.
I’m sorry to say you had me laughing almost all the way through your letter. Whatever made you think I was younger than you, when in fact, I just turned seventy five myself. However, what set us apart is that I am pro active in spite of my age, which is simply a number that represents a vast accumulation of life experience during my sojourn on this earth and, unlike yourself, I work hard to fill my days with purpose because complaining about the the alternative would serve no purpose.
You sound like a very young-at-heart lady who has somehow misplaced that wonderful, youthful zest for life which you claim to have had. It’s obviously still there inside of you screaming for a way to get out. So, the first order of the day is to find what you can do, and be realistic now, you don’t want to disappoint or defeat yourself by trying to do something that is out of the realm of reason due to age or health. Volunteering as a Bubby in a nursery school, looking into part-time work in a business near your home, you know, light office work where you can feel like your back in the groove, there’s still a high demand for older people with experience and a sharp business man or boss will recognize that. Some libraries adopt older people to help the little ones find just the right books or a desk job answering phones might be just the thing for you.
You must first look into those flying insects that populate your eyesight, that might need some attention and might be a warning sign that your eyesight is in peril. Your hearing needs immediate attention as well, because no matter what kind of position you fill, hearing clearly will be a prerequisite and, to that end, maybe a hearing aid will do the trick. There is no end to how you can enrich your “golden years” and add freshness and fulfillment to your life. But you have to figure that out for yourself. You are a feisty, mature woman with much spunk and life still left in her, so get started in living your dream. Hatzlacha!