My husband and I love hanging out with old people. That was one of the aligned values we discovered when we started to connect and learn about one another.
I have always adored my grandparents, feeling as if they were like the big movie stars growing up in our huge clan-like family of 17 aunts and uncles and 27 grandchildren including myself. They were the celebrities to be honored, my grandma for birthing and feeding everyone, and my grandpa for providing all the goods. We’d have huge family outings, vacations, and celebrations where they always had the best seats, the best view, were fed first, and all catered to their needs.
When they began aging to the point where they could no longer take care of themselves and their safety became an issue, we moved them into my aunt’s home in San Diego with around the clock caregivers including their kids who came from as far as northern California to stay for 3-5 days at a time. My kids had grown up already so I had flexibility with my time and energy to drive down there and spend the week with them.
They were still mostly mobile on their own though my grandpa was losing his senses and ability to communicate. I’d make meals, clean, and then try to get them out for a walk or outing somewhere. We’d watch movies but a lot of times we just sat together talking.
I believe this is my main reason for appreciating elders: the stories. The experiences and the unique time in history. What people did and how they spent their time. The normal everyday stories and the extraordinary stories made me want to encourage documenting them somehow.
I’ve witnessed several of my massage clients and a handful of my coaching clients go from their 50’s to their 70’s and from 60’s into their 80’s. I work with my clients on a very intimate level in both vocations so I get to hear a LOT of stories.
My favorites are the rebellious ones. My grandparents and family would often tell the story of how my grandpa would drive the motorhome with the whole family and likely some family friends, to the beach. He was one of the first owners of the first models of these later popularly named “Recreational Vehicles” or RV’s,. With less restriction “way back then” he would gun the engine and drive as far out onto the sand until it stopped, declaring, “ok, here we are!” That would be their home base for the week while everyone played in the ocean, had bonfires, and ate the food my grandma made in the motorhome kitchen. Everyone slept on the roof, the sand, and all over the inside of the RV.
Another woman I coached and massaged shared how she raised her children in a cooperative community on shared property they mutually owned. They each built and had their own home though they would make meals together and take care of one another’s children. They also managed the roads up to their homes because it was not public so they had all their children digging trenches along the sides for rain flow to ensure their road wouldn’t wash away. She is an artist and has held art shows living in Italy and locally in Coffee shops. She shared how her husband had died of cancer and how she’d lost one of her daughters at age 23. We figured out she would’ve been my age had she still been alive.
Another couple I’ve massaged for almost two decades travels a lot. They have beautiful art and artifacts they’ve collected from Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, South America, Nepal, Thailand, Madagascar, China, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Easter Island, Mexico, and more. They have brought back many gifts for me from their adventures. They always shared their mishaps and successes as they stayed in rustic bungalows to fancy hotels, driving bumpy dirt roads to being chauffeured through popular cities. They always enjoyed ancient and spiritual sights the most. They would return with photos of the wildlife and tales of the local history.
My husband and I are about to leave for a trip down to Santa Barbara where two elder longtime friends of his life are. When he moved from New York to California in his early 20’s, he spent a lot of time with them. From them, he learned to cook fabulous amazing meals which have greatly influenced how well he continues to craft delicious meals today. They tell stories of their college shenanigans and concerts they’ve been to, having grown up in the 60’s. We call them the original hippies. When we are visiting them, we listen to music on vinyl and sit in their garden with a beautiful view of the open lot behind their home with the dogs and sweet cat.
I learn from them all and have so much gratitude for the time together. As I creep towards my 50’s I recognize time passing. Speaking to elders who have less time in front of them than behind them and contemplating the end of life is stunning. It brings perspective to all things and makes me ponder how I want to spend my time and energy going forward.
Oftentimes, I hear prospective coaching clients share how they feel stuck or somehow disconnected from themselves or their lives. Getting familiar with our own stories and gaining perspective is something to choose, without having to wait for tragedy or impending death. To begin to appreciate where you are, where you have been and either find contentment and resolution or make necessary changes to feel more fulfillment in the time we have is the goal.
Make your list of the things that are most important to you, consider if you are giving yourself to those things as much as you would like to be. Then reach out. I’d love to hear your story!