High tide

February 1, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Do you ever look at your present life from your own point of view as a child? Do adults still ask youngsters, say, under eight, what they want to be when they grow up?

The boys often used to answer with the roles of heroes, as they saw them – firemen, police, men who rescued, men who were famous, influential or their dads. I asked an eight-year-old couple of twin boys recently, and one shrugged and said something about having a band, which is still about fame and the bright lights, I guess. His father told me later their drum kit just collects dust. The other twin talked about following science – he loves math.

It has been a long time since girls were convinced the only jobs they could have were as secretaries, nurses, or teachers. It is fun to see the stereotypes drop away, although it has been a while since I had a conversation with a young girl who could answer such a question.

One young female assured me a few years ago that she was definitely going to be an actor, and it seems she has made inroads on that ambition – got an agent in her teens and all that. Headed to L.A. if she has her way, I believe. Be careful what you wish for – I hope someone said that to her.

Even now, interviewing the many fine and diverse artists I have been privileged to meet, there is still that question, irrepressibly pushing its nose into the last words of the conversation, ignoring the matter of age and the road already well travelled.

What are your ambitions? The question can surprise me, as it seems there is no more time for other trips or changes. Yet, we’ve been told more than once that an artist should re-invent [themselves] without necessarily counting how often and how long people still explore new ideas and venues.

We are really convoluted about age here, stuffing our grannies away in unfamiliar places, expecting them to begin a whole new social life. We are terrified and repulsed by age – well, it used to be the forties of our lives because there was the rule to never trust anyone over forty. Nowadays, forty can look pretty good and people are living longer and looking better and still want to keep their youthful figures and their busy brains by staying on the job.

The younger – under forty, maybe, want to use technology to push them out – fast speech – indifference to present company if their cell phones burb or twitter or make any noise or might make some sort of noise…

One might speculate how young a person in the future will be when being allocated to an unfamiliar place. 

In so much of the rest of the world, grandparents are kept at home, and they live better and longer lives because they stay in their familiar places, with long-lived friendships and family all about them. They don’t live lives of uselessness, but often, the elderly ladies are still cooking, and the old men can teach others how-to’s and assist in chores. 

In the Mediterranean countries and many in the Middle East, in much of Asia, elders are respected, loved and needed. I don’t know the statistics of dementia there, but I bet it is less of a problem than it is perceived to be here and generally in North America.

Of course, in most of Europe, what is considered important differs from what is emphasized, especially to the south of us here. 

Although the rot of corporate greed in Canada is well and truly giving that of Americans a good run, and many people are seeing their budgets crushed, I like to think our family values are good and that principles still matter more than money. We know enough about life to value meals at home, care for each other, and understand how important community is. 

Ambition. Do we really ever absolutely give it up? It matters how we approach our self-image as we age. If we give in to the falsehood that we must become diminished, that is a problem. The truth is we carry our lives, our years of living and learning all the way to the end. An elderly person is a living history book, and many cultures, including our own Indigenous societies, revere their elders for those very reasons.

The Grandpal programs in some schools here in Orangeville are praised for embracing that very notion of older and much younger people can exchange and learn so much from each other.

Next week, Theatre Orangeville is producing Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home, a humorous look at life in Paradise Village where three senior citizens are counting their blessings and making us laugh as they deal with each others’ differences. Being a Foster play, we will no doubt face realities and, maybe, solutions, but, as always, we will come away from a live theatrical experience changed by at least an inch.

Through the hopeless romantic that is Norm Foster, love will endeavour to flourish in the home, but we have to go to see the play to learn how well love does.

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