The other day I heard a kid ask his grandfather, “Did you play football back in your day?”
I hear that all the time, and I began to wonder, when was My day? Isn’t it still my day? I’m still alive, last time I checked. Did I pass my “use by” date? Is it time for me to be thrown out with last month’s milk or a block of moldy cheese?
According to the Gen X, Y and Z’ers, maybe so. In our youth-centered culture, anyone over 49 is considered pretty useless by everyone 48 and younger. That’s ironic, since it won’t take long for today’s 20-somethings to reach 49, but they haven’t figured that out yet.
I recently read a study by UCLA professor Jared Diamond on how different cultures treat their senior adults.
Some cultures actually honor their aged members above the young, he said. In these cultures, children are so devoted that when their aging parents lose their teeth, the kids will pre-chew their food for them.
Note to my son: I’ll chew my own Little Debbies, thanks.
Diamond goes on to say that the older person’s usefulness in a society plays a major role in determining how the elderly are treated.
In some tribal societies, the elderly are deemed valuable and worthy of support if they can still gather food for the tribal meals. They also get a pass as long as they can still make weapons, tools, baskets or clothes.
When they become too infirm to contribute to the tribe, they are left outside to become wolf snacks.
Non-literate societies also value their aged members as keepers of the tribe’s oral history, tribal skills and practical knowledge, such as how to survive a volcanic eruption or a drought.
I guess when your thinking gets a little fuzzy in that tribe and you’ve used up all your yellow sticky notes drawing pictures to remind you of stuff, you, too, become wolf kibble.
So where does that leave those of us who have supposedly had “our day?”?
Well, I can’t claim to be a food gatherer. If you bring me something you gathered—and cooked—I can get it on the table and eat it with my own teeth.
I’ve never made a weapon, unless you count the time I led my pre-school cohorts to strip our teacher’s plum tree of all its hard green fruit to fire at each other in the playground war I organized.
I’m not a tool or basket maker either. I can make clothing, but I don’t know that anyone would—or could—wear one of my garments. I have a disturbing habit of making the armholes too small and stitching the neck together when I’m not paying attention, which is most of the time.
I’m probably not going to be kept on the payroll for my memory either. My memories are now pretty much confined to what happened yesterday. So don’t ask me what happened in the War of 1812. Is that the one where I fired the green plums?
Don’t ask me for the lyrics from “Dirty Laundry” or who played Charlie in Rainman. I’m having a senior moment.
Sometimes, with my Aleve bottle in my hand, I can’t remember whether I’m about to take a pill or I just swallowed one. Is the Dixie cup wet or dry?
I’ve never been good at telling people what to do in a volcanic eruption or a drought. Besides, when the lava starts to flow, young people aren’t going to ask me what to do. They’re going to push me out of the way, whip out their phones and Google “Lava.”
Since “my day” seems to have passed, are they going to set me out on the porch for wolf bait?
No, but I think they will follow the practices of cultures that can’t or don’t want to take care of their less productive members. Maybe our kids won’t leave us out in the wilderness to die without our pre-chewed food, but....
Read the fine print in your Medicare policy, and you may notice that certain wellness tests and surgeries once covered for older folks are no longer guaranteed.
Look in the department store for clothing that suits the aging frame. It’s not there, unless, of course, you can still wear short, tight, sleeveless, see-through and plunging.
Even though there are a bunch of us, have you heard politicians promising the over-60s anything? Not unless you still need a free college education. Instead, they are looking with interest at the money we may have had the good sense to save in banks and IRAs and annuities that they can grab to “redistribute” to their pet projects.
I’m not saying that our day is over, but just in case, I’m practicing up on my basket-weaving and pre-chewing some Little Debbies to keep me going if I see the wolves coming and I have to make a run for it.
If all else fails, I’ll scare them off with a barrage of green plums.