This May Be the Last Time

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

What a ride—from birth to the end of life. In the farm villages of Europe it all happened in one limited area. The old and young mingled together in the concentrated villages surrounded by the expanse of farmland. There were always some elders to look after the younger ones. No need for paid babysitters or TV programs or hand held devices to entertain the young. Older, experienced human beings interacted with the younger generation.

Each age has its way of life. Toddlers once tootled about the house, opening the lower cupboards and playing with pots and pans. The older members of the tribe or extended family looked after the little ones and since they had expertise after raising a large family, they knew how to teach and entertain the young.

In today’s city living there is seldom the experience of lots of brothers and sisters to interact with. Small families focus on the one or two children in the nest, so to speak, and their every need is satisfied.

The stay at home mother is now confined in the house with only one or two children to interact with. On the farm, mothers worked alongside their mates with their young ones playing about observing what their parents were involved in. In the summer they were cultivating, planting, harvesting, cooking, baking, and preserving food. Winter time was spent in sewing clothes and repairing farm equipment and the like. Older members of the family served as mentors. They had gained wisdom to share with younger members.

Now older people often live alone or in retirement residences as there is no place for them in the homes of their offspring. Instead of sharing their wisdom with youngers, they may pay to be entertained and fed, eliminating the chores of cooking, sewing and house cleaning. Very old people begin to think that whatever they do today might be for the last time. As age creeps up and the body becomes less limber there is a temptation to move less. Since most older people do not live with younger people, their stories of the past and their knowledge from living a long life lie dormant in their minds.

Instead of looking forward to each new day with delight in experiencing new adventures, older people may sink into the mode of thinking, “This may be the last time I will ever do what I am doing today.” Recently I found that the tires on my car were almost bare. I was offered two choices—tires that would last for 60,000 miles or tires that would last 70,000 miles. I thought to myself, “I have only driven 32,000 miles in the nine years that I have owned this vehicle so I can go for the lesser expensive choice. Then I realized that I might not buy a new set of tires ever again.

As oldies often say, “I can do everything that I once did but it just takes longer to recover.” So I am staying active every day of my life. Nothing except lifting 100 pound weights is off limits for me. My fellow and I are spending time with our children and grandchildren, sailing in Puget Sound, driving around Mt. Rainier, flying over Seattle and attending the horse races at least once. And while I am at the races I will visit the manager’s office to protest the whipping of the beautiful beasts as they race toward the finish line. I never miss a chance to make needed change. And I am replacing the crossed out names in my address book with new friends as life becomes a rich mix of young and old—as it should be.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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