I have been finding that in the blogging world which does so mirror the real world baby boomers are looked at as having been the cause of many problems that were ingrained already. After Viet Nam ended, when we were young and not in positions of authority, or any position at all, many of us chose to become cause oriented rather than change the world through politics.
Newsflash: it’s difficult to change the world when the generation before us was busy conquering the corporate ladder and Gen X the generation below us was having a giant coke and ‘lude party. Yes I’m stereotyping, my generation has been stereotyped our entire lives. I’m a 50’s baby boomer; and still get taken for–well there’s a picture in a national magazine where I think I was supposed to represent Gen X.
If you don’t know Panthergirl, please check out her blog. She mixes things up; has wonderful children, and parents–well read her stories.
The following is an absolutely true story
Spring 1996, Riverdale the Bronx
When I worked at the nursing home, a nurse came laughing into a meeting.
“Ah, Mr. O’Shea, he rode on the wrong side of the road coming down 231st Street. What a sweet funny man.”
My face turned red. Mr O’Shea abused his aphasic wife on home visits, but we were missing the last bit of evidence. She might have abused him before her stroke and they had lived in blissful mutual abuse. Mrs. O’Shea was incapable of abusing him now. We had scheduled two meetings: He had missed the first one and had been too drunk the second time.
I had banned home visits and any unsupervised ones at the nursing home. My decision wasn’t popular, but I didn’t care. There was no way that I could allow a woman to leave knowing she would come back burned.
It was easy for me to understand how some people could live in mutual abuse; but I couldn’t understand how other people could condone that behavior as much of the staff at the home did. When the subject was broached in interdisciplinary meetings more excuses would be made than I could stand to hear.
West 231st Street is a s steep hill. Driving on it tipsy could be deadly; driving down the up side while drunk should have been a disaster. But God protects drunks…
What the hell had possessed me to get a Masters in Social Work? Hadn’t I wanted to be a part of the solution, and devise innovative solutions to aging problems?
I’m a baby boomer. In my 40’s I felt and looked much younger. In my last semester of school I had already passed the licensing test; I ran a hall because the Newt cuts had taken affect. They didn’t have to pay me; I paid for my internship. And the nursing home got a free social worker who had work experience in concrete services, assessing, and counselling.
I hadn’t even graduated from school and was disillusioned and bitter.
I was aware that in less than ten years the first baby boomers would be turning 60. If I hadn’t remembered that it’s now a matter of months, Newsweek’s article would have*.
While I felt invincible I knew that my mom had felt ageless, until my dad died suddenly and her macular degeneration began to make her truly blind, disabled and old
Mentally my mom was fine. A lifetime of good habits, taking care of herself, and being staunchly independent was allowing her to live on her own. As long as my sister and I were alive and cognizant our mother would never end up in a place like this.
Who would look out for me when I became old? I was in my mid-40’s, way too young to focus on my old age and yet I was surrounded by it. My apartment building eight blocks north was filled with blue haired ladies and blue haired ladies-in-training. Wasn’t punk blue; that I would have liked.
Felt as if I slept in one old age home and did my internship from another. I could see the nursing home from my standard quality motel type suite post war apartment, and from the ancient nursing home could see my post Cross Bronx Expressway apartment building. Old age was my entire life, and instead of seeing innovative solutions I saw the sickest and frailest nursing home residents, and the nosiest most intrusive neighbors.
I was just bitter enough to let the nurse at the meeting know what I thought of her finding Mr. O’Shea cute. For the first time in my working life I wasn’t a team player. This was a team that I had no desire to be part of. I find nothing about being drunk funny.
A couple of days later Mr. O’Shea came to a meeting. I closed the door and felt as though I was going to vomit from the alcohol stench, but he was sober enough. I got to say:
“Mr. O’Shea you’re a drunk.”
To my surprise he agreed and went to the VA for inpatient treatment. Shortly after he was released and was going to begin counseling with me, Mrs. O’Shea died.
Moving to Riverdale was the second bad decision I was too make; going to Social Work school the third and sticking it out was the fourth. I graduated with a 3.84 cum, and an outstanding field placement evaluation and felt as though I had learned little. If I hadn’t done so well I would have thought that I was becoming demented and sometimes did anyway.
I didn’t stay in social work: much too little money for very depressing work. W and Laura are turning 60 this coming year. I hope that they understand that the average person, even the average old rich person doesn’t have access to the resources that they will have. I hope they understand that old age is truly the great equalizer. Look at Ronald Reagan or Iris Murdoch. Elegy for Iris by her husband John Bailey is the most elegant book I have read on dementia. There are scenes in it that haunt me still.
I haven’t lived in Riverdale in eight years next week nor have I worked in the nursing home for five years but I am haunted by dementia and old age. We think we can control it and change it as we have deluded ourselves to think we have changed everything about our world.
If we have learned anything from the past four years it should have been that there are certain things that we will never be able to change. A terrorist who wants to commit an act of terrorism badly enough will always find a way to carry the act out especially if he/she wants to die. A hurricane will destroy what’s in its path. Yes there’s, woulda, coulda, shouldas but as Bill Clinton, who too will be turning 60 knows, they’re just words.
I have known dynamic old people and I include my mom in that. But I have seen too much of the tragic side. I am haunted by being incapaciated or unable to take care of myself for whatever reasons. Seeing old women who are too fat to wipe themselves isn’t my idea of a good memory; it does serve a purpose though.
I don’t want to live the next X number of years preparing to be old; I want to live each day as though I’m still young, because damn it, I am. I want the advent of old age to surprise me as it seems to surprise everybody else. I want other people to think of the solutions, though my number is…..
Sometimes I can be really jealous of Mr. O’Shea; he found a way to mask his pain, and to keep old age at bay
*Diane Keaton’s turning 60 this coming year. She can’t; she’s forever Annie Hall