Saturday, August 06, 2005

So the eyebrow wax worked- I'll be taking over Jesse's publishing job. And with a week left of working in social services with the elderly, I've already started reflecting on highlights of the last year+ with the elders.

-The few times I've had to drive the bus on one of their trips, I've felt like 14 people's ambassador to the world. I could not predict that would be foreign to them: from the price of a 20 oz. pop advertised outside a Subway, to the upscale sidewalk dining of downtown LaGrange (why would people want to eat next to the street?). These are women (mostly women- Gentleman, if you can live past 80 years old you're guaranteed to be a hot tamale around any retirement community.) who are in their 80's and 90's, most of them never worked, never drove even, so their sense of the world and how to handle the slightest disagreements with people is like no other person or group I've ever encountered.

Does everyone dwell in the decade of their glory years and ignore all subsequent progress of culture ever after?

It's been one of the greatest gifts of my job to hear memories and perspectives shaped by the 1930's, 40's and 50's, but this is the same generation that was on the other end of the generation gap...they're still predicting the end of rock and roll and many are among the last smatterings of congregants at their churches. Frequently I am asked why people these days let their disrespectful children run their lives and why everything on TV is sex, sex, sex.

Imagine being totally invisible to the cultural mirrors of advertising and media, and, with the exception of drug commercials, seeing no representations of yourself reflected in the culture at large. It's as if you don't exist.. And if your cultural consciousness stopped somewhere around the McCarthy years, imagine how incomprehensible the world as understood by TV, movies and newspapers must seem. (Watching 20/20 last night, thinking of all who would NOT be outraged at a segment about what a sham modern art is when a 4-year-old can paint like an Abstract Expressionist- and the kicker was a closing remark about how the government is wasting your tax dollars by lushly funding such "emperor's new clothes" foolishness!)

-The few times I had to find someone injured (or once, deceased) were certainly not pleasant but at least they have shown me that I will not be the hysterical, freaking out person in an emergency.

-I will no longer have to sit in rush hour traffic in Brookfield reading inane bumper stickers like, "First Gun Control, Then Total Control," and "Footprint of the American Chicken=(peace sign)."

-I've always enjoyed being a passive observer of other family's dynamics. This may be why I particularly love waiting in airports around the holidays. And this has been the source of mucho insight at this job too...The children of my ladies (who are my parent's age) will often remark to me, "I don't know how you do it," or "you must have the patience of a saint." And I always want to say- your mom's not that bad..clearly she bothers you much more than me. I see the power struggles between adult children and their elderly parents really heat up when the parent is forgetful or frail or hard of hearing. Adult child will infantalize his/her parent not realizing that that parent is still perceptive enough to know that they're being treated like the child.


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