Rushing Backwards?

April 13th, 2017 by elaine

George went for a haircut the other day.  He goes to a real barbershop – it actually has a barber pole in front you can see from the metro station.  It has two chairs and two really nice guys who know how to cut hair and tell a story.  So the one who cut his hair this time told him that you can give his seven month old baby any toy in the world and he’s not interested.  The only thing he loves to play with is the iPhone.

Well, I don’t know….George is not too good with numbers, but his hearing is really fine.  So, maybe the guy said seventeen months old, or maybe he was speaking French or Spanish or something else.  But who knows these days?  I saw with my own eyes a video, shown to me by a trusted family member, of  a very young child reclining in his crib playing with his mother’s iPhone. You could see him pressing all the right buttons to get to the cartoon he loved the most – and that child was clearly not yet two years old.

Hmmmn…..But that was six years ago…perhaps seven months is the new “not yet two”.

I was thinking about this in terms of the ages of my four children, from 54 to 60, and having been there, those ages, I know they are not “old”.  They are ready, willing, and able to do the work they love, mostly freelance or self-employed, mostly creative, while it gets harder and harder to make a living in those fields.  So far they are doing fine, really fine.  But I wonder – will they soon be pushed aside by the younger ones at their back?

That’s when I thought about a novel by Anthony Trollope. a genius of the human heart.  It’s called “An Old Man’s Love”.  I read it late in life – I was curious. (The title grabbed me.) The Old Man, who had never married, had, as the story begins, lost his best beloved friend two years prior;  this friend, widowed, had a daughter whom he treasured, and perhaps on her account, because he was “impecunious” (very short of money), late in life married a lady who was hard, sharp, and possessed of an annuity – (generally not well liked but monied). That lady. as the book opens,  has now succumbed to an illness leaving the daughter, Mary, quite alone and virtually penniless; at twenty-five, a young women in this situation has, in fact, very limited prospects, none of them savoury.

The Old Man, who has received this news by letter delivered as usual ten minutes late by the post-boy, is extremely irritated even before reading it.  After all, he had got through his second cup of tea and was stranded in his chair, having nothing to do, with the empty cup and plates before him for the space of two minutes…. Reading the news, then, in that dark mood, his first reaction was severe:  I’ll be whipped if I will have anything to do with her (Mary).   He goes for a walk to calm himself and of course recalls his true feelings for his beloved friend and remembers as well that he himself, seeking to comfort the dying man who grieved for Mary’s future, had assured him, She shan’t want.  I can’t say anything more.

The Old Man,  after careful thought, determines that Mary must come to live with him and announces to his faithful housekeeper, she shall have her part of everything as though she were my own daughter.  Mrs. Baggett is not at all pleased.  I’m that old that I don’t feel like having a young missus put over me, she says, And it ain’t for your good…You ain’t a young man — nor you ain’t an old un; and she ain’t no relations to you.  That’s the worst part of it.

How old is the Old Man? Fifty.

Five Oh.  He is already five to ten years past his life expectancy for the year he was born in the UK.  My children, in their 50′s to 60, still have a way to go to theirs in this wondrous age of  80, 90, and even 100 year olds who are still vibrant.  I wonder, with the seven month old already owning the technical skills you and I often curse for the lack of, are we not rushing backwards to where fifty-year olds will soon be asked what eighty-year olds hear a lot:  Are you still working? (George and I hear:  Are you still breathing? and privately, we laugh).

There it is!  All that I have to say on this subject….I have wandered through several pages trying to put this bit into the context of how the world is now, and, as you may well guess, it led me down too many tragic paths, and I don’t want to go there.

And you don’t need me to go there either.  You know what I mean….

©Elaine A. Zimbel 2017

Posted in Eighty and then some..., Fiction, Uncategorized

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