Short Short Story

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What was the moment of no return when you understood you had stayed out too late and you had no way home having spent your last coin on the slots or in a bar or wagered on horses, and the sun was setting in a dirty yellow mist beyond the smokestacks and shifty faces peered out of the shadows at you and you walked quickly with pretended purpose, your heart in your mouth, striding as if you meant it although you had nowhere to go and the last bus left without you and you knew if you stopped moving that would be the end?

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On Being a Crone

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I asked Google to define “crone”.  The top definition is “an old woman who is thin and ugly”.  But there is another.  “A woman who is venerated for experience, judgement and wisdom”.  In other words, an “elder”, one in whom the word “senior” means one who is appreciated for their life experience, not dismissed as “senile.”

So I imagine how I look to others.  I was sitting on the library floor, listening to a young man play jazz piano and another young man sing along.  Two small children were climbing precariously on an armchair beside me, stealing the show.  What, I wondered, would be the reaction if they toppled over onto me, a not unlikely scenario until their father decided to add his stabilizing weight to the chair.  Another time, waiting for the laughing, oblivious young persons approaching me on the sidewalk to ease over slightly so that I did not have to step into a snowbank, or onto ice to avoid them.  Does grey hair and a lined face make one invisible?

I remembered the time I was buying something in an electronics store and I mentioned something, I forget what, and the young sales clerk asked me how I had found out about it.  When I said I had looked it up online he praised me, “Good for you!” and told me about his mother who was taking classes in using the computer.  It was only later that I realized he had been thinking of me as some decaying relic from a distant past who could not really understand technology.  He didn’t mean it unkindly.  It was just the way he saw me.  How could he know that I had spent the better part of two decades using a computer to help other people find information?

Inside, we “crones” and “elders” are the same people we have always been.  The sixty year old contains the thirty year old, or the three year old, and will one day grow to contain a ninety year old, eventually returning to whatever version of infinity brackets birth and death.

Synchronicity

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Seldom do I observe synchronicity in my life. But an odd thing happened this morning. A few days ago I noted that my wedding ring was not on my hand, nor in the place where I keep it when I am not wearing it. After some futile searching and retracing of my steps of the previous day I have concluded that it slipped off my hand, who knows where, and may or may not turn up. I thought about wearing my mother’s ring, although I would have to have it resized, and went looking for it in the place where I always keep it. but it was not there. That was strange, as I never have worn it. But this morning I randomly chose a scarf from my drawer and, when I started to put it on, a golden object clanged to the floor. No, it was not my missing ring, but my mother’s. How it got there I cannot imagine, although somehow it fell from its box unseen, and was therefore temporarily missing. I think I have been told that my own ring is gone forever and I should use this one.

From a Facebook thread – my comments

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These were comments made on a thread discussing proposals to eliminate special discounts for seniors.

1.Hmmm, how am I supposed to get wealthier?
2. I wouldn’t get rid of transit cost breaks, as you actually want to get ageing drivers off the roads.
3. It is all part of the tendency to pit one group of Canadians against another. Non-union workers against unionized ones, rural against urban, young against old. “They” forget that not only will we all become older, but that we all have family members and friends in all age groups. Children will not hate their parents for ageing and becoming an alleged “drain” on the system, because they know that those same parents were the ones who cared for them and paid for the advantages that they will enjoy as they too become older.
4. It gets worse if even if you have a decent pension it may not be indexed. You just have to hope that you don’t outlive your money.
5Just looking at a table that outlines how you have to use up money in RRIFs. The government is bound and determined to get its pound of flesh from you, and the amount increases steadily the older you get. So even those who have been able to save through the medium of RRSPs, and might be considered relatively well to do, face a future where there is really no way to increase your wealth unless you were already truly wealthy. I hate to think what the future holds for those among us who haven’t got even a minimum amount saved.
6. I’d actually like to know more about the statistics that are being used. I’d like a definition of “senior”. Because nearly all the senior citizens are actually not “baby boomers” – they are on their way, but so far only the first couple of years worth of the cohort have retired. I suspect that this cohort is NOT as well off as their parents, because many of us were starting careers just as the post war boom was ending and the financial changes wrought by Reagan and Thatcher were about to hit. We were slammed by the major inflation caused by the Arab oil embargo in the early 70s, from which I bet the middle class has never really recovered – has anyone studied this? Certainly in my family we are not nearly as well off as the parents were at their retirement.
7. I asked about the definition of “senior” because the assumption seems to be that the generations of seniors grow ever richer, but I don’t think the policymakers are really looking closely enough at the boomer generation – they seem to think this generation is the wealthiest ever, but in fact I think it must have been the generation preceding us, and the policymakers are talking about changing things NOW, just as a possibly less wealthy generation begins to retire. These policymakers and their predecessors have known for decades that there would be a bump in the population of old people. Just as they had to build more schools to accommodate them when they were children, they will have to find sensible and humane ways to accommodate that same population as it ages. It is a temporary plight, and there are fewer old folk in the cohort than there were children, because we are dying off at the usual rate. They could have created a special fund that would now be available to help with such things as affordable cohousing, better access to geriatric medicine, accessible public transportation – all things, by the way, that would benefit the entire population. But no, the governments of the day just took that extra bump in tax revenue, from the large working cohort and… well, what did they do with it?