Eighty in a 55 zone

One of the greatest challenges of my generation is caring for our aging parents,

One of the greatest challenges of my generation is caring for our aging parents, now that medical advances are enabling them to use up our inheritance at a much faster rate. Not to mention how they selfishly spend Social Security money that could otherwise be given to needy defense contractors.

I was reminded of this when my own 80-year-old father and late-70s mom came for a visit and left me with a strong impression: 80 isn’t 80 any more.

A long time ago, my great-grandfather was that age when my cousins and I would visit him in his one-room shack behind our grandparents’ house. We would sit on rickety furniture in that darkened little space, four 8-year-old boys convinced that the strange odors in the air could only be the smell of death. Great-Grandpa’s hearing was mostly gone, so he spoke loudly, punctuating his reminiscences with periodic spits of tobacco juice into a nearby coffee can. Did I mention he was toothless and laughed with a high-pitched cackle? On average, we lasted about five minutes before we would flee, shaken by the ordeal, and take refuge in a nearby tree.

these days you seldom see the elderly with tobacco juice dribbling down their chins. (My own mother has gotten much better about this, especially when company comes over.) Now they whiz down the road with big plans and bigger cars, blowing the dust off unused shuffleboards as they speed by. My father still exudes brash self-confidence as he walks up to my front door, whips out a bundle of bills, and says, "Son, here’s 50 bucks. Now turn up the heat."

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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