#715 – Dick Bernard: On growing Elder.

This afternoon, at the annual Heart of the Beast May Day Parade, the obvious salute at the end of the regular parade was to “Grandmas and Grandpas”
(Click on photos to enlarge them)

Near end of May Day/Cinco de Mayo Parade, south Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

Near end of May Day/Cinco de Mayo Parade, south Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

A Grandpa (at left) and a Grandma honor the May Day Parade as it nears its end, May 5, 2013

A Grandpa (at left, partially obscured by a lady) and a Grandma are honored by, and honor, the Minneapolis May Day Parade as it nears its end, May 5, 2013

It was an especially nice, and particularly pertinent, touch to a topic that has been much on my mind in recent days, but has been on my thought screen for many years: how elders fit in (or not) in our contemporary American society.
In the last week or two I’d been concentrating on a long remembrance of past days at tiny Sykeston ND High School: the place I had graduated from in May, 1958.
Among many other memories, it occurred to me that at the time of my high school graduation 55 years ago, my Dad and Mother – he was the Superintendent and one of my teachers – were 50 and 48 years old respectively.
My oldest son is now 49. And my parents seemed plenty old, back then in May, 1958.
Then in mid-week last week, more or less impromptu, I had something to do with a gathering on Law Day, May 1, which by design celebrated several Elders, most over 90, all of whom had been prominent in their working lives, and now are part of the huge category called “who’s he?”, or “she?”.
In conversing with one of them – a man I scarcely knew before April, 2013 – I had occasion to remember a workshop from 1998, which became my Christmas card in 2000.
The topic was “Canyon of 60 Abandon”. The card is brief and can be read here: Canyon of 60 Abandon002
The premise of the Canyon story is really very simple: ours is a society which tends to discard its Elders at an arbitrary time called “retirement”. Oh, we give them things like Social Security and Medicare, but basically they’re marched off into a remote area to their old person thing, and (I suppose) hopefully leave behind a substantial financial inheritance.
The story goes on about one family who violated the society rules, and hid their Elder under their porch, ultimately to their great benefit.
In my recollection of that now-15 years ago workshop, the story-teller, Michael Meade, didn’t go into specifics about what value their Elder added to the family that benefited from his or her presence.
That is the essence of story-telling. It is left to the listeners to create the real-world basis of the story.
I’ve now been in that “Canyon of 60 Abandon” for over 13 years, and it has been a most interesting and extraordinarily enriching life experience.
There is something that the Elders possess that those younger cannot, and it is important that the Elders be valued and included and not discarded.
How our society relates to those “out to pasture” tells a great deal about us.
And it is important for us to really pay attention to these relationship questions, as we struggle, ever more, with an uncertain future, and with difficulties in inter-generational communication (think Facebook versus the face-to-face word-of-mouth) that our ancestors would have relied on not too many years ago.
Who do you know in that Canyon? How can they be more truly valued while they are living. And if you’re in that Canyon, what is important about not isolating yourself?
Can we talk?
ADDED Posts on this topic: June 7, 2013, September 1, 2013