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Jewish World Review
March 23, 2007
/ 4 Nissan 5767
Depressing Thought for the Day
I woke up this morning with a rather depressing thought I am the oldest member of my family. With my mother's passing last year, all of that previous generation of family members is gone. My mother was the last of her siblings to die. My father and his siblings have been gone for decades. When you come to the realization that both of your parents are dead and all your aunts and uncles on both sides are dead, it is sobering and amazing. And more than a little scary.
Now to be completely honest, I must tell you that I do have a half-sister as well as several cousins who are a bit older than I, but contact with them is non-existent. The thing is, my generation within the family, the group that only yesterday were "the kids" are now the elders. Man, that was fast! Don't think that it happens in gradual increments, either, it doesn't work that way. You don't go from the youngest group to a middle group then to the oldest group, no,no. You jump from the youngest group to the oldest group in one fell swoop. No warnings, just one day there you are. Bam! Whippersnapper today, wizened geezer tomorrow.
There is any number of glib one-liners and wisecracks concerning aging. You know, like there are people older than I am, the problem is they're all dead. And nobody gets out of this thing alive we all get dead sooner or later. Growing old is not for sissies. We should try to grow old with class I just never figured I would get promoted to the head of the class this quickly. The one compensation about growing old is, all the things you couldn't have when you were young you no longer want. But how many old jokes can you do before they start to get … old?
The ironic thing about my particular generation of old fossils is, they never grew up to begin with. They worked at being forever young. Remember the slogan of the sixties, "don't trust anyone over 30?" My generation took that very seriously and that's why so many of us can't stand ourselves today. We just got too old for our slogan. We really should have picked one with a longer lasting message like, "don't trust anyone over 93" or something. Although personally, I must tell you those are the only people of whom I really do trust.
One annoying aspect of being the oldest in the family is that when something comes up from your past that you can't remember, there is no one around to ask. I was trying to remember the year and make of my first car the other day and wasn't sure if it was a 1949, '48, or '46 Chevy … or was it a Pontiac? My brother and sister were too young to really have taken notice of a thing like that and family members or friends who were older then, are no longer around now. So I'm on my own. And so far, I haven't been much help.
The business of walking into a room to get something and then once you get there, forgetting what it was you were looking for is common. Misplacing glasses and pens and keys and wallets are normal for everyone. The problem is, as you get older, the time you spend looking for these things takes up more and more of your day. This is a shame since you don't really have a lot of time left as it is and given a choice you'd probably rather spend your remaining time in a more productive way. But on the other hand, what else have you really got to do? As you get older, looking for your glasses could very well become your most important project of the week.
Sometimes, when having a conversation with someone, I will lose my train of thought or point of the story when the other person interrupts to comment. It becomes more important than ever, therefore, to get to the point of what I'm saying as quickly as possible before the other person gets a chance to chime in and throw me off. A social dilemma rears its ugly head. The choice becomes do I just keep talking faster and louder over the other person and get it all out, or shall I be polite, stop and listen to them, but then when they finish have to say, "I don't remember what the hell I was saying"?
A friend of ours actually came up with a worse memory experience than that. She made the observation that sometimes when she is alone, she will be thinking about something, but then become distracted by yet another thought, and then totally forgets what the original thought was that she was thinking about. In other words, interrupting herself with her own thoughts. Which, on top of everything else, to me sounds a little narcissistic. Confused? Perfect. Join the club.
I suppose when you get right down to it, nothing really changes. Listen, when I was 15 years old I spent a lot of my time wondering what year and make my first car would be and here I am still wondering. One thing I do know, it was a two-tone green four-door sedan with a torn headliner which is a lot more than I knew at 15. And if that isn't the wisdom that comes with old age, it'll have to do until the real thing comes along.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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