Refocusing in Old Age
Back in Louisa, when I was but a young child, my focus was on playing, eating, and having fun. As I grew older I came to prefer organized play over toys in the dirt, but I still liked to eat when I could. The category of ‘fun’ grew to include others, especially those of the fairer sex. In fact, by the time I was in high school I had added music, team sports, girls, and exploration of ‘things’ as my focus. I walked, rode my bike, or drove in a borrowed car all around the county finding places I didn’t know existed. I did the same when I visited my ‘working’ mom in Detroit. There I went to the historical museum, the fine art museum, the ballpark, some of Detroit’s special places like Bell Island, and other spots. I went to concerts held in the park by the Detroit Symphony at no cost.
As I watch my grandchildren I see all kinds of energy being used in play that I wished I could capture in a jar to use whenever I find myself a little short. Yes, I have come to the place that I just don’t have what it takes to move about and explore. It’s as if I’d rather just stay put than to run about in a hurry. The youngsters don’t waste time walking from one room to another, but always…I mean always, run. These days I have come to the place that running is all but impossible. So what happened?
Fellows of my generation have said in many ways at different times that growing old isn’t for the weak, or the timid. Life at this end can be rough. Thinking about all the conflicts, the bills, family troubles, taxes, and whatever is destined to break and require fixing, is enough to cause me to retreat to my ‘man-cave.’ Instead of exploring in breathless anticipation I prefer to shrink into a private place and look for distractions. I used to go off on my own when the kids wanted to watch cartoons. Sadly, I now sit and enjoy them with the kids.
I still like museums but would rather see a documentary than to walk for hours through the musty buildings and listen to guides explain what I usually already know. I love ballgames but can watch them on TV without the cost or worrying about parking. I still like pretty girls (of any age) but prefer they not interfere in my life. It’s difficult for me to understand the younger ones, and far too easy to understand those closer to my age. ‘Yes, dear, I’m taking out the trash.’
As a youth there were time I liked to sit on the porch swing and read comic books. I remember many times of sitting on the porch floor and going through my collection of baseball cards with my friends. Those were restful times and did occasionally lead to a comfortable nap. Even with all that energy a nap was a good thing. I wonder if youth was like living with an ‘on and off’ switch, so that I ran at top speed and then needed rest. If so, life has changed so that the ‘on’ switch doesn’t provide the same level of power. On the other hand, the ‘off’ switch still works very easily.
During the times of rest I used to dream about comic book characters, war heroes, and major league ball. As I grew I added girls. As a grown man, I dreamed about life’s problems and the solutions to global threats. Today I dream about the luxury of staying put. Our new home has a large wooden deck which we just had rebuilt. We have the usual tables and chairs for outdoor cooking, but we lack a restful porch swing or glider. The view is such that we could use one or two of those, perhaps using them for a mid-day respite from life, perhaps even a ‘cat-nap’ before supper. Wait a minute! What has happened to me? Naps were once a thing to be avoided. Now I’m dreaming about having a good nap?
Well, I have to admit that I remember some fine naps in my growing up years. I remember playing hide and seek at my uncle’s dairy farm. I found a safe, warm place between hay bales up in the barn’s loft. I must have won that game because my cousins left me be if indeed, they even found me. I remember on the very day of my high school graduation that Johnny Bill Boggs and I went fishing near the mouth of Blaine Creek where it joins the Big Sandy. We sat in the sun on a big flat rock for a good while when Johnny Bill walked a little ways up stream on the creek. I had removed my shirt and wadded it up to make a pillow as I stretched out for a bit of a rest. When he came back he woke me, but I was as red as a lobster. That night I had to wear my graduation robe over my starched shirt and wool suit and sit still to listen to speeches at our outdoor ceremony. I was glad to have reached this goal, but might have preferred no one slap me on the back just then.
I would finish this article but frankly my attention span is wavering and my eye lids are all so heavy. Maybe another time…
Oh, by-the-way, write me note after your nap. I’d love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org