On seniors and time warps

Ed Smith
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“My Lord, where did September go?”
“Where did the summer go, my son?”

Both gone, b’y, like a baby’s breath, like a lover’s sigh, like a maiden’s prayer. Gone, like an election promise, like yesterday’s kiss.

You have to admit that these are formidable “gones.” I’d give you more except I can’t think of any. OK, how about yesterday’s fog or last night’s embrace? Nothing much more “gone” than these, especially if “last night’s embrace” finds you alone in the morning.

On the other hand, if you live in St. John’s East, yesterday’s fog is probably still shrouding the shingles on your rooftop. My condolences to you all. And yes, I have lived in St. John’s East — for eight long months, January to August.

You might say I am as one acquainted with the fog. (Sorry you who are, like me, a lover of Frost. If not, but you’re lonely and uncertain, read his “I have been as one acquainted with the night”)

What I really want to talk about is where the heck life is going so fast, and why.

My intent, as usual, is to enlighten you accordingly, at no extra cost to this already inexpensive missal. Actually, if you analyze it, there are three separate parts to that question, requiring three separate answers.

The first is the assumption that time is passing very quickly and we’re passing with it just as quickly. It used to be that was true mainly of the older generation. If they were fishermen, they worked from dawn to dusk or more at the heaviest kind of work. They had families that made heavy demands on their time and they were always involved in working in the church, service organizations and this-or-that charity.

Women were expected to cook and clean for the men, often including the men who were fishing with her husband’s crew, perform all the myriad tasks involved with raising children, help with fish in the stage when there was a glut and either spread out, turn over, or pick up fish on the flake when rain threatened. For them, as with the men, time passed very quickly.

When they lifted their heads in September, they found the summer had gone before they had even noticed it was there.

Loggers, too, engaged in a profession that treated them cruelly and made heavy demands on them physically. Fishermen who were also loggers in winter likewise got no break at all. For all of them, time flew by in a hurry, as it does today.

For anyone involved in a 12-month struggle in any work or activity, designed to keep pressing bread on the table and a roof overhead, time just wasn’t a factor in their daily lives.

But you know the difference between now and then? It seems to me that as a young adult. I never heard seniors, especially older seniors, complain about time passing by so quickly.

“Where did September go at all, b’ys? My son, we’ll soon be asking everybody if they’re ready for Christmas.”

Never heard older people expressing those thoughts. More likely it was more like the following:

“My dear, time passes some slow around here.”

And all too often we heard this from frustrated workers.

“No matter what we try, we can’t get seniors interested in things like gardening. Their attitude is, ‘Had to do that stuff all my life — not doing it now.’” How are we supposed to deal with that?”

In short, I’m saying that while they might talk about it, seniors were quite happy to have time moving at a snail’s pace. It was understandable, really. Someone once remarked to Groucho Marx as he was puffing on one of his beloved cigars, “Don’t you know that stuff is slow poison?”

“That’s all right,” replied Groucho, “I’m in no hurry.” Why would you be?

But then you hear this, or words to this effect.

“My son! This can’t be Sept. 28 already! Sure, it was only yesterday we were coming up on the end of July. I just can’t keep up with it at all.”

Why the attitude difference? Is it something in the water? Something in the air? Or something in our minds?

I’ve been asking people about this and getting some interesting answers.

Older people are just repeating what they hear younger people saying, some people suggest.

There’s so much talk about times speeding up and there being no way to keep up with things that older people feel left out if they don’t have the same attitude.

In a very real sense, they are left out. Technology is speeding by them and they don’t know what to do about it. IPods and iPads and tablets and the thousand and one other communication devices that can do anything including brush your teeth, give them a sense of not being “with it.”

Every time they turn around, there’s something new that they don’t or can’t use because they don’t or can’t understand it. The generation gap has never been so wide.

Even preteens have their cellphones. They use them to text their friends while sitting around the dinner table — something that should never be permitted in any family.

In my daughter’s house next door, using their cellphone for any purpose, especially texting when other people are chatting, is strictly prohibited.

When it happens, older people just shake their heads at this latest unintelligible invasion into a world they increasingly don’t understand.

I understand how seniors feel, and how lost and disconnected they are.

I understand because I’m one of them.

Ed Smith is an author who lives

in Springdale. His email address

is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

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Recent comments

  • Tony
    September 30, 2013 - 12:51

    Maybe you should try to get a Tablet and see what the fuss is about and adapt to change? Complaining about it does nothing.