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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability September 30, 2014

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
rhaddad@westernnews.com
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Friday, August 20, 2010

What's it like to be old?

 By Richard Haddad

I imagined his first car, the birth of his baby girl, his years of toil to provide for his family, the wrinkles he started to notice in his hands and face...

Have you ever walked by a mirror and caught the reflection of an old person glancing back at you, and then suddenly been struck with a confusing moment as you realize the old person is you? It can be disheartening.

I think I have an embellished vision of myself embedded in my brain - a vision of what I think I should look like. Unfortunately it's a much younger me.

I don't think I'm vain. I just remember seeing myself more as a younger man, and time has changed that reality.

I hope I've still got many years ahead of me, but as I watch our children grow up and have children of their own I find myself wondering, "what's it like to be old?"

I was walking past the post office today as this haunting question resurfaced. I saw a gentleman that must have been in his late 80s. He walked in slow, shuffled steps with the help of a worn, wooden cane. He was wearing those large sunglasses that wrap around your eyes.

I wondered if the letter in his hand was going to a son or daughter he seldom sees. I wondered if his labored walk caused him pain, or if he had anyone at home that would care if he was hurting, or lonely.

As I passed him my mind's eye was swept back to the pages of a history book filled with black and white photos. For a moment I pictured him as a vibrant young man with a rifle in his hands storming the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Perhaps his best friend in the world died that day. I wondered if he cried that night.

I wondered about the sweetheart he married that made his life fuller than he ever could have imagined. I imagined his first car, the birth of his baby girl, his years of toil to provide for his family, the wrinkles he started to notice in his hands and face, the loss of loved ones, the quiet moments alone, and what he felt when he passed by a mirror.

I know I often allow my imagination to run away, but it did make me consider my own mortality and question if I am doing the very best with each day I have left.

I wanted to turn around and thank this man for enduring, no matter what his past.

I also wanted to ask him, "What's it like to be old?"

What do you ponder?

What do you wish for?

What sustains you?

What do you miss the most?

What should we cherish more?

What would you like others to know?

Perhaps you are like this man. If so, might I ask you if you would be willing to share the answers to some of these questions about your yesterdays so I (and others) might be a wiser person tomorrow.

I invite men and women, old and older, to use the comment form below. Or you can email me directly at rhaddad@westernnews.com


Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Article comment by: K S

I'm only 62. Yes, only. But I sometimes look in the mirror and say, "Hey! Where did that athletic little blonde girl go?" I reflect more now on what I could have done to make life a little easier for her. We all make wrong choices at one time or another, but when you're young you think you're invincible. You're just not. Sad but true. At this point in time I concentrate on keeping my health, but am a bit afraid of what insurance is going to be like, if I have any at all. My one hope is that younger people who curse older people in some of the posts on this site, will realize, before it's too late, that they, too, will be "old" one of these first days. Then they'll know what it's like to be called "old" in a derogatory manner. Being "old" isn't a bad thing. It's reality for ALL of us. As you age, your values change. And when they don't jibe with those of younger people, we're a pain in their patoot. Just wait, kids . . . it's coming your way, too.

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Article comment by: Too Old to Care

Getting old is bad enough then comes the health problems. Fortunately at 67 I've been fortunate with minor complications. What is difficult is the response & lack of care by the medical profession. They would just as soon have you drop dead. No care or concern much left in the medical field. I often wonder how these people treat their elderly parents or better yet how would they like others treating their parents with the disrespect, lac,k of care/concern as seen by so many others. It doesn't matter how old you get, unless quality of life is really poor, people want to live to see their children, grandchildren & GR8 grandchildren grow & not have to suffer through these hard times.

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Article comment by: Happy in PV

Getting old is painful for me. Genuine pain. I've always done hard physical work and now at 58 the body is paying for it. I have noticed that most of my medical problems have come from the side effects of medication that was prescribed for minor problems. kidney stones, ruptured discs, and needing knee replacement amoung other things have surely slowed me down as well. I sure wish I had been taught how to properly lift when I was younger. Too many years working alongside illegals have taken a toll on my body as well. They have my respect.
Just keep your head up with pride that you are contributing to this earth in a positive manner and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. God dosen't give you more that you can handle reguardless what you think. You can do it.
I know people that have never had a "job" at all and I have trouble relating to their medical problems. No they never had kids, they just lived of the fat of our great land. They never spent 15 minutes just getting out of bed so they could go do a hard days work. Sorry, no pity available from me.
Take care of your body. Back in the 70's there was a milk advertisement that said, " if you have your health, you have just about everything". I think it was by the united dairymen of Arizona, they knew what they were talking about.


Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Article comment by: Thank you Sylvia

Sylvia's comments brought tears to my eyes, thank you for your wisdom, advice and honesty. I hope more people over the age of 70 make their comments also.

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Article comment by: Jaded Mile

K, I'm only 32, but I have to throw this in. At my age, I really wish I would've respected my body more. I've never done drugs, but I am a cigarette smoker and have been since I was 16, so half my life now. Between that and eating so much junk food, I really regret what it's done to me. Also, the stress. Stress has hurt me worse than anything. Also, I wish that I had not done that jump in cheer-leading when I was 14 that landed me flat on my behind, which in turn has tortured my sciatic nerve ever since. I also wish I hadn't had a baby at 18, cuz boy, did that really do a number on my young, hot body. I'm only 32 and I've only just begun to quit smoking and eat healthier. I just really hope that I have a chance to turn things around after all those cigarettes and all that junk food... So all you young ones that read this, don't think that you have your whole life ahead of you to get old, because if you make bad choices like I did, you'll feel way too old for your age after about 30...

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010
Article comment by: Steven Brown

At the age of 60, I found myself pondering the really important questions in life.
Can I/should I ever wear spandex again?
What ever happened to my belly button?
Who was the better front man for AC/DC, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?

Steven Brown


Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010
Article comment by: No second chances

I ponder whether I made the right choices in my life that later had an impact on my children. Was all the effort I put into making a living so time consuming that I forgot to put effort into making a life. Jobs will come and go. My children just grew up in the blink of an eye and they are gone living their own lives. It feels like that old song by Harry Chapin, "The Cat's in the Cradle." For you younger fathers out there, there are no second chances. Make the first time around count.

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010
Article comment by: Corky Smith

The worst part of getting old is that you have to spend so much time just taking care of yourself. Doctor visits for arthritis, sinusitis, tendonitis, skin cancer, high blood pressure, etc. Cataract surgery. Therapy treatments. Rinsing my sinuses once per day. Making sure my medications are refilled, and remembering to take them. Then of course there are the delightful conditions of varicose veins and sub-dural hemotomas, which make a chimpanzee look handsome by comparison. But the only alternative is to die young, which is not acceptable.

Posted: Saturday, August 21, 2010
Article comment by: Sylvia Schlotterbeck

What do I ponder? I suppose I'm no different from other people my age. I am about 20 years old in my mind, although my last birthday was my 71st. I still see the same face in the mirror that I have all my life until I see a photograph and wonder how in the world that happened. I reflect on my childhood and realize, perhaps a bit late, that my parents were made of strong stock and set examples of a work ethic, consideration for other's and honesty above all. What sustains me? I believe those qualities are learned at a young age and are handed down as a way of life. I see this in my children's accomplishments and their ability to love their children unconditionally. I believe that if these traits are kept in mind, everything else falls in place and you can sleep with a clear conscience. What do I miss the most? The ability (and desire) to run and play, to jump rope, to eat anything without repercussions, but perhaps most of all I miss the family members and friends that have passed on. Photographs and memories are bittersweet.
What do I want others to know? Be patient with others, be they a senior moving too slowly in line or a toddler trying to learn their first everything. A happy life must contain one element above all others - love. After all, we are all in this together.




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