01 Feb 2024 Seniors again
By Vivian Lawson Hogue
When I was a high school senior, I had energy enough to play baseball and flag football. I sang, played violin and piano and learned from a brother how to shoot rats at night at Tin Can Hill. I had my first experiences of writing and cartooning in the Wampus Cat school newspaper. After graduation, my best friend and fellow giggler, Carolyn Hazel Lewis, and I took on new lives at different schools, then different life paths.
In 1982, I returned to Conway when my parents were in their early 80s. At age 39, Carolyn and I took up our lives again as if we had never been apart, especially in regard to giggling. We were 26 years from being “seniors” again! She had one child and I had two, so our former energies were then centered on being wives, parents, daughters and eventually both of us as teachers. However, humorous moments never diminished.
Those 26 years passed and we found ourselves filing for Medicare at age 65. We were “seniors again!” It is astonishing how the years accelerate afterward! My parents and two brothers passed on, as did her mother and brother … then Carolyn herself in 2017. I don’t know what God will do about us when I join her in heaven, but He knew long before we were even born that we would be a handful.
There are things that a lot of people don’t know about being a “senior.” For starters, begin now to get your gear together. Get a power of attorney. Remember that their power is void after you “check out.” Appoint an executor. Make a will. Tell the executor where it is!
Start throwing out things you don’t need and never will again. Your children will not want your deceased parakeet’s birdcage. If your children live in small housing, they can’t finagle your antique bed through their door and maybe have to move it again. Make sure your finances are in order and that any possible future care needed is arranged officially. One of my favorite witticisms is, “I did some financial planning and it looks like I can retire at 62 … and live comfortably for 11 minutes.” The answer is to plan ahead, but also to learn to make do or do without.
Meanwhile, live your life! Go to church. Keep a daily journal, even if it’s only a weather report. My dad started a yearly journaling book before I was born and kept one until his already illegible handwriting was just scratches. It was touching to read his entry for the day I was born. Go easy on useless carbs and heavier on protein and fiber. Keep medical and dental issues under control. Don’t hurry about checking the mail unless you really enjoy perusing political and hearing aid ads. Head for the Senior Citizen’s Center and dance or watch those who do. One of my favorite sayings is, “I still have a full deck. I just shuffle slower now.” Go do some slow shuffling!
If you’re going to be a senior, you should know these facts. The term “senior” came about in the 1930s to soften the label of “old person.” The life expectancy in America in 1938 was 63 and is now 77.4 for men and 81.7 for women. Apparently women have more to say and need more time to say it.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizen Month, a time to acknowledge past and current older citizens, particularly those who defended our country. The Older Americans Act became law in 1965. In 1978, the American Indians, Alaskan natives and native Hawaiians were included.
In the long past, our seniors were revered for their persistence in living through hard times and for being a family matriarch or patriarch. Many lived with their children and grandchildren, and many contributed to household duties and childcare. Youngsters benefitted from old stories, family history and earlier cultures.
I have one of those stories! Our 68-year-old grandmother Arnold was living with us when I was born. My mother came home one day to find her riding on the handlebars of my oldest brother’s bicycle while he gleefully pedaled over broken sidewalks. Mother was stunned, but she knew the two had collaborated in their mischief.
All three are gone now, and with deeper study, I’m thinking I finally know why I was never given a bicycle.