Category Archives: Birthdays

Loneliness

There was a sad, yet heartwarming story that came out of Rome yesterday. Police responded to a call after someone reported crying and shouting coming from an apartment. When police arrived they were met by a couple, Jole who is 84 and her husband Michele who is 94. They have been married for 70 years.
The couple was not upset because a crime had been committed, but because they were overcome by loneliness and the depressing news they had been watching on television. Apparently they had not been visited by anyone in a while since much of the city empties out during the summer months and neighbors were on holiday.
In an attempt to make them feel better, the police stayed with them, cooked them a simple spaghetti meal and spent the evening listening to stories of their lives.

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Loneliness affects millions of people, especially the elderly who are homebound and unable to participate in society the way they once did. A recent study claims that while only 18% of the elderly live alone, 43% felt lonely. That’s a difficult statistic to read.
Whether someone has lost a spouse or has grown old together, the way this Italian couple has, advanced age can take a toll on your life, even if you are relatively healthy. We all know people in the 80’s and 90’s who remain very active but the majority of those who have lived that long have lost most, if not all of their friends, and what remains is a time in their lives that most people don’t remember.

While age alone does not corner the market on loneliness, there is an isolation for many older people which doesn’t offer them an opportunity to alter their lives. Phone calls and visits certainly help but much of their day involves little or no human contact. The difficult truth or realization for many is that life has moved on without them. They are no longer part of a working society, have given up their cars, and rarely leave their homes except for medical visits. The independence of living alone that many elderly people prefer to have, comes with a cost that most of us can’t imagine or prefer not to think about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What they know and see is confined to the walls of the rooms that surround them and like this couple in Italy, those walls seem to get closer each day.

We celebrate age with parties and photos in the newspapers of people who have turned 90 or 100 and it is quite an accomplishment. The experts tell us that advances in the field of medicine will allow people to live longer. But there is a difference between living and being alive. All of these people were alive once. They lived active and full lives; had families, jobs, hobbies, and were most likely surrounded by people on a daily basis. I don’t think they ever thought about loneliness.

We all know people like Jole and Michele. Sometimes we see them out somewhere or sitting on a porch or at a window, watching life go by as we pass. Sometimes a wave turns into a smile, sometimes a smile into voice.

At the end of the day, we all need to believe that our lives have a voice.

 

Another Trip Around The Sun

I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to. 
Albert Einstein

They tell me I turned 64 today. That’s what they tell me, though I don’t necessarily believe everyone is being completely honest with me. I had relatives who were 64. Those people were old and I’m pretty sure I don’t act like they did or look like them or walk like them. Well, maybe occasionally I walk a little funny. But hey, I see 20 year old’s moving a little gingerly at times so forgive me if, after playing a game or two of basketball against those “kids”, I get out of the chair a little more slowly than I did earlier in the day. Some things just need time to correct themselves.

In fact, looking back, it seems to me I was clueless until I was about 50 years old.
Nora Ephron

If, in fact, I am this age that people are singing about, I don’t know where it came from, when it happened or what it means. I know I celebrated some birthdays in the past. I remember being a little depressed when I turned 30 because, well, I turned 30. The only other time a birthday bothered me was when they told me I turned 50, only because old people turn 50. At least that what I used to think. But 50 just happened the other day, that’s why I think this 64 thing is just some practical joke. Because if the people who tolerate my childish ways are trying to convince me that 34 years have passed since I was a depressed 30 year old, then I’m in serious trouble. That means that 98 is right around the corner.

How is that possible? I can give you detailed information about the stickball game I played when I was ten or the people we got even with on mischief night when I was 12. I could even tell you how I cheated on my alphabet test when I was five years old in kindergarten; and you’re trying to push 64 on me? Sorry, I’m not buying into it. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve always been doing, thinking the way I’ve always thought and trying hard to fight this dirty word people refer to as maturity. And I’m going to listen closely to Woody Allen when he said…

You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100. 
Woody Allen

So I guess I’ll never reach the triple digit celebration, because I’m not going to sacrifice all the things I enjoy just so someone can smile at me as they’re wiping the cake off my face and taking a picture for the local newspaper. But I have 60 years to worry about whether that party will happen.

What?

No, the calculation is correct. This isn’t the math you learned in school. This is called birthday math. It’s a little different. If you need a lesson, let me know but my guess is you’ll understand it sooner than you like.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and blow out the candles before the smoke alarms go off. Seems like everyone turns into a comedian on my birthday.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art.
Eleanor Roosevelt