History on Foot

March 2, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Years ago, I wrote a piece about the virtues of young people or all of us listening to our elders and, in particular, the really elderly, to hear their versions of the history they have lived. One can never imagine being 85 years old until one is 85 has long been my contention. 

Long-term memory hangs around better than the short-term might, so we are told. Thus, even with a person who struggles to remember our names, that person will recall with considerable clarity life during decades that are decades ago.

With all the information in the universe (presumably) at our fingertips, it worries me that the charm and value of reporting via real experience may become underrated, even boring. Like it or not, the internet has not been around for much time, and plenty of people are much older than the virtual bearer of all that history.

Perforce, the folk who have variously taken up the task of entering the entire mass of information into the internet vehicles that carry it are still victims of the reported details of the stories and “facts” they install into what is considered the ultimate word and authority about everything. Inevitably, there are mistakes and misinformation since many sites may be “edited” as invited.

There was never a time, since people painted reflections of their lives on cave walls, ever since writing was invented thousands of years ago, that the clear and untarnished truth has been given. Any cop on the beat will admit to the variations in the tales that witnesses tell.

Any judge might ask, “What is truth? Are your truths the same as everyone else’s in this courtroom?”

The closest to the truth that we may hear is how it felt. Does being 85 (for example) release one from the need or the desire for subterfuge? Remembering early days, particularly during bygone times of upheaval – I have heard it from grandparents of my acquaintance – how they felt about a given time in history, reacted to the policies at the moment. Plenty of those stories came with surprises.

With all the mistakes, whether errors in fact or planned sabotage, with all the variations in the way stories are reported, geared to the politics, the upbringing, the slant of the reporters, history is written by chance. All the cameras in the world collaborating will never provide “noncontroversial” evidence of truth. The wind provides too many nuances, and any fan of fictional mysteries can attest that a twist can come at the very end.

Okay. What am I trying to say? That we are losing our appreciation for the members of a large portion of this population. Let us say first that in many cultures around this earth, older family members continue to live with their offspring. They are not shrugged off to desperate places created to house the elderly, not left in wheelchairs, queued up for a go at the inedible slops called lunch that even the staff are embarrassed to serve them, not left to sit in a room with others, with the television on, one hopeless movie after another running until bedtime, not force-fed drugs to keep them quiet and dull so they can hardly remember being bright young things with ideas and good observations to make about the world around them. 

There are places in the world where aging is not treated like a crime and old men and women meet at the cafés to laugh, reminisce and talk about the same world.

The natural ebb and flow of people interact and the elderly are still treated as viable, with opinions and memories, valuable understanding of the past that written history cannot reveal. The continued relationship through life to its very end with one’s family, one’s community has proven beneficial for young and old alike because the conversation is not restrained to one’s condition and the confines of a restrictive environment. It is open and interesting, laced with respect and love. Chances for the young to learn and listen to remembered experiences and the consequences of living them, and the older folk have the joy and restlessness of youth to keep them engaged.

Proof of this may be seen in the Grandpals program, where matching elementary school students with individual seniors in several weeks of meeting with some guidance as to questions and conversations provide the very benefit to both sides as I mean.

However, the real proof of how wrong we are to file our seniors away in houses where they are merely in line to die is the hideous evidence of Covid’s reign of terror through those places, where it was impossible to be with them, and they were left in bone-chilling loneliness, and they were not cared for as they had to be and they died by the thousands. 

Cherish our older family. This current disdain for “boomers” and up is yet another loss for everyone.

Google is just another phantom. Reality lives in the minds, the flesh and the love – of all of us.

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