Stories I'm hearing
Stories I'm hearing on the street, in the news, etc.
About 35 members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) heard my talk last week as the last of a week of free workshops. RSVP “connects individuals who are 55+ to meaningful volunteer opportunities throughout New York City.” Since people who do meaningful work on a regular basis aren’t retired, RSVP is a lousy name, as director Meredith Gemeiner readily admits. But it’s a good program, the volunteers liked what I had to say, and two of them told great stories during the follow-up conversation.
After my talk last month at for the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York, a woman with a wonderful face handed me her card and mentioned that she'd been collecting birthday cards for years. Would I like a look? Yes I would. We got together last week, and I've posted a select and quease-inducing selection on the This Chair Rocks Facebook page.
That's the title of an invitation from my friend Masha Feiguinova that landed in my in-box a little while ago. It reads, "I am ageing! On April 29th I will celebrate 34 years of ageing. I would LOVE to see you, celebrate with you, hug you and toast with you. More details soon. For now please hold the evening of April xxth open. If you are partial to ageing, come to the ageing party!"
This public project is the brainchild of Rachel Levy, an associate professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, who was tired of hearing people say stuff like, “Just explain it like you would to your grandmother” or “That’s so easy my grandma could get it.” Levy started it “to counter the implication that grannies (gender + maternity + age) might not easily pick up on technical/theoretical ideas.” In other words, to challenge the mindless, ageist and sexist meme that older women are technically inept.
Yesterday I spoke for the first time to an audience of medical practitioners at Weill Cornell Medical College/NY-Presbyterian Hospital Dept. of Geriatrics. It was in a beautiful conference room in the Gothic hulk of a building next to the East River where my daughter was born 28 years ago next week. I opened with an anecdote from a friend who brought his 83-year-old mother in to the family doctor for a check-up—she was in a wheelchair after a stroke—and when they came into his office the doctor said, “Are you still around?”
"Keeping the Conversation Going: A Daughter Speaks to her Mother Across the Memory Loss Divide" is the title of this moving short memoir by Margaret Morgenroth Gullette, author of the brilliant Agewise. The abyss, of course, is memory loss, and Gullette describes learning to focus on the very real pleasures in what remains. "My mother, too, was a self — living, often contentedly, on islands of land in the abyss," she writes. "I made a decision to live with her on those islands."
Last night outside a club the bouncer who was managing the line in the frigid cold referred to my partner as "Grampa"—distinguishing him from the crowd of 20- and 30-somethings shivering alongside us. (We were with a bunch of friends celebrating a 40th birthday.)