Old people. Everywhere. All over my life. For like the last three years. I am not kidding. I live in the world’s longest screening of the movie Cocoon. This not me being unkind. It is just a fact.
My 89 year-old grandmother lives one block away. The 102 year-old man and his 90-something year old wife life across the street. My blue bathrobe rocking, loud talking, Bronco fan landlord in his 90’s lives next door. My sponsor? In his sixties. Every person who volunteers at or visits and a lot who work at my non-profits arts organization day job? Most of them are 60+. Lord knows why I’m now participating in this real-time version of On Golden Pond but I am. And I love it. Beyond all of the cliché things were supposed to get out of old people (The wisdom! The in-depth stories of the past! The accidental racism!) I kind of just like hanging out with them. Listen, I have found people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s(which sounds like an amazing oldies station, btw) are just a lot cooler than most people. People in their 20’s are essentially babies. They need our love and support. We should have a telethon for them and hold them close to our collective bosom as we read them Lena Dunham stories and rock them to sleep and pray they don’t wake up until they’re 30. People in their 30’s are freaked the fuck out. We need to get out the way and let them go thru it, honey. While people like me, in our 40’s, are starting to change our minds. The things we cried over. The things we thought would end us. The people we invested a lot of stock in. All mean nothing and it’s a freeing and mildly fucked up place to be. People in that kick ass mixed tape age bracket, however, kind of don’t give a fuck.
Their company is relaxed because, and I am guessing here, they’re expectations are lower and they’re not tied up in all of the shit I get twisted about. I also like hanging out with them because they tend to have a more developed sense of humor. In their twilight years, the lucky ones, have moved onto a Jedi-level of smart assery that I find truly aspirational. My grandmother, although certainly more frail and slowing down, drops one-liners and blue jokes with the casualness of the guy who delivers her paper. (Yes, she still gets a newspaper and reads the whole thing everyday even though she can barely see.) Laughing with her and making her laugh is a delight so satisfying I can barely put it into words. It’s deeper than laughing with friends. It’s like the soul food version of laughing. It’s like the Nietzsche version of laughing. The shit lifts all the clouds and I feel like I’ve reconnected to this person who’s been here my whole life. Plus, being around all sorts of examples of aging on a daily basis gives me a crystal ball into what it could look like for me, how I could choose to live and that happiness doesn’t have to expire. There’s also a level of acceptance and one-day-at-a-timeness relationships with older people require that I as a person in recovery can totally get down with. They are who they are. They ain’t gonna change at 90 years old so you can love and enjoy them as is for however long or you can struggle and fight. What’s it gonna be? I choose the former (or at least try to) and spiritually it teaches me a shit ton about unconditional love and expectations and letting go. Also, when you regularly chill with old people, you get over this “OMG you guys I’m so great because I helped the elderly” bullshit we tend to tack onto these kind of relationships. The way I see it, THEY’RE doing me a favor by putting up with my confused ass, not the other way around.
But really all of these relationships are a gift. My grandmother, who by the way, is not the easiest person to get along with, has always been in my corner. She not only came to my first play which was basically 90 minutes of dick jokes and Internet humor but loved it and brought all of her friends. She has poems of mine I wrote in the 5 grade. She’s in love with my husband and cried when he sang the “Sound Of Music” (her favorite movie, natch) a few years ago at Thanksgiving. She has told me to keep writing and keep helping people, no matter what. She has also recently decided to stop seeing her doctors or take meds and just ride this thing until it ends. Which I totally get and respect while selfishly feel terribly sad about. After 15 years in Los Angeles, the universe plopped me block from the house I was born in, down the street from my grandmother and smack dab into an ongoing Golden Girls episode. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I get to read emails to my grandmother. I don’t know why I routinely get to wait for an old lady to find the exact change in her purse while I’m at work (which she almost always has but it takes a minute and sometimes things that are pennies are actually buttons or bus tokens). I don’t know why but I do know that it’s exactly where I need to be right now.