Last night Gary and I attended the Senior Dinner. Each June the Caddo Community Association honors citizens in our community who have reached the age of 80+. This year they also extended an invitation to veterans of any age. It's an evening of good food and interesting stories and good fellowship. Gary says he likes to attend the dinner because it makes him feel young! I like to attend because it gives me such a strong sense of community and security and hope. I've known most of these people since I was a girl. Many of them knew my parents and grandparents. They have children and grandchildren who are now my friends and neighbors.
Most of our elders have made an impact on the community through their work or church or commitment to their family. Some of them have achieved at least modest recognition for their contributions. Others have lived in quiet obscurity. These elders among us have worked and struggled and endured the ups and downs of life. But most of them smiled last night and said "I've lived a good life."
Isn't that what most of us want at the end of the road? I've lived long enough now to accept that many of the mistakes of my youth were just that- mistakes of youth. That doesn't make them right. It's just that time and reflection puts them into perspective. I think, and write, a lot about viewpoint and perspective because I think that is the foundation of not only our relationships with other people but our general outlook on life. I heard someone say once "there is no truth, only your interpretation of what happened." Food for thought.
I spoke with several people last night who were lacking in education and wealth. Many had finished only the eighth grade, yet managed to find work and raise families. Different times to be sure, and I'm the first one to encourage everyone to get as much education as possible. But I think what carried our seniors through life was motivation and effort. They expected to work hard and they did. Education isn't your ticket to a good life. It's only the means to better opportunities.
There were lots of interesting stories last night. One of them is posted on my Caddo blog. There was laughter at memories of 25 cent gas and 35 cent lunches. I saw several heads nodding when others talked of walking miles to school or working for very little money. There were sad faces when veterans spoke of the war and the bomb. The people in this elite group came from a variety of backgrounds, and achievements, but shared many painful experiences.
Oh, I know everyone who attains an elderly age isn't a saint. My son worked in a nursing home for several years and my brother managed one. Both have told me that reaching old age simply means you are "more of what you've always been". I know some folks who are going to be very unlikeable octogenarians! Maybe what happens is that those people aren't happy enough with their lives to attend a dinner and talk about it!
Last night we had four elders who were 90+ and I think there were nine who were 80+. What was also interesting was that several of those "seniors" were the ones who had planned and hosted the dinner! That's the senior I want to be...I don't want to have lived the good life at the end of the road, I want to be living it!