by Father Mark Goldasich
Gee, it’s already May, a month chock-full of celebrations. Tucked among the better-known ones of Mother’s Day, graduations and Memorial Day is one that doesn’t have a particular date. It honors older Americans and is celebrated all month long.
Because some people think that all senior citizens are senile, here’s a story to ponder:
An elderly couple was celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They were childhood sweethearts and moved back to their old neighborhood after retiring.
Holding hands one May evening, they walked back to their old grade school. As it was not locked, they entered, peeked into an old storeroom and found the desk they’d once shared, where Andy had carved “I love you, Sally.”
On their way back home, their pleasant memories and conversation were interrupted when a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing at their feet. Not sure exactly what to do with it, they picked it up and took it home. Sally counted the money: $50,000!
Andy said, “Sally, we’ve got to give it back.”
Sally said, “Uh-uh. Finders keepers!” and hid the money in the attic.
The next day, two FBI agents were canvassing the neighborhood, looking for the lost money. When Andy answered the door, an agent said, “Pardon me, folks, but did either of you find a bag of money that fell out of an armored car yesterday?”
Without missing a beat, Sally said, “No.” Flabbergasted, Andy said, “She’s lying! She hid it up in the attic.”
Sally replied, “Don’t believe him, Agent. He’s getting senile.”
The agents turned to Andy and said, “OK, sir. Please just tell us the story from the beginning.”
Andy said, “Well, when Sally and I were walking home from grade school yesterday . . .”
The first FBI guy glanced at his partner and Sally, shook his head and said, “We’re outta here.”
Sorry, I couldn’t resist telling that one. You’ve got to love that Sally.
Older Americans Month reminds us to love the elderly around us. And one of the best ways we can express that love is by giving these seniors three of the greatest gifts possible: our respect, our time and our attention.
I get the sense that older folks sometimes feel useless or a burden to others. Since they’re not able to do the things they did when they were younger and healthier, they feel that they’re not so valuable. In a society that judges people by what they produce, it’s hard to convince folks that we’re human “beings” first, not human “doings.”
In an effort to honor the older Americans among us, we might try some of the following:
• Visit the elderly, especially those in nursing homes or those not able to leave their homes. Spend time with them; don’t be in a hurry to leave as soon as you arrive.
• Create a “timeline of accomplishments” together with the older person. Talk about all that he or she has done in life: schools attended, jobs held, families raised, trips taken, service rendered, etc.
• Pick their brains for a firsthand account of all of the history that they’ve experienced. If it’s a relative, explore your family’s history. Consider recording or videotaping these recollections.
• Help them to explore new things. Take in an iPad or smartphone and show them all that these gadgets can do. Watch a favorite movie, browse through old pictures, let them travel “virtually” to exotic places, help them to Skype with out-of-town relatives or send an email to a grandchild.
• With those suffering from dementia or debilitating diseases, patiently listen to them or sit with them and hold their hands, or pray familiar prayers, like the rosary. These can bring a tremendous sense of comfort and reassurance.
Appreciating the legacy of our elders — while they are still here with us — is something that never gets old.