ethel’s words

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OLD AGE: A PERSONAL APPRECIATION

I have often said that my "golden years" were/are really golden. I dislike the usage; gold and its symbolisms turn my stomach upside down, but the value of life in retirement is a reward like religionists dream of: a time when one's life--in liberation from the money-grubbing, profit-chasing, greed-enhancing industrial age--one's life becomes a time to be involved in creative, peaceful, voluntary activism.

Learning one's family after they are dead, having the joy of greeting the new family, having some time with the few flying things left to enhance the garden (a butterfly is a rare treat, but millions of children have never seen one. Oh, tragedy!)

There is time at last to weep, if I should decide to finally do it. But there is time to write, to try to challenge thought, to try to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

But now, this three o'clock in the morning on Sep. 13, 2006, I sit at my red table, after deciding to write rather than weep, my body at age 84 becoming old. I am more than grateful--I am overwhelmed with gratitude--that I have had these free years, still do not have arthritis, nor degenerative diseases, no need for medicines by prescription.

Still, this middle of sleeptime, now almost 4:00 a.m., I have sleep-depriving pain from old injuries and I have emotional wounds that I find hard to deal with. So I remind myself again how lucky I am to have a partner who provides endless comfort to my life (also consternation), to have a roof over my head that I think I will have until I die.

I suppose it is reasonable for me to still harbor bitterness in the public aspect of my life. I have given my free time to political activism and I see my country fallen into fascism. I see the go-alongers-with-the-profit-system, living in various luxuries on the backs of their fellow human beings. In the midst of a seemingly endless food supply from Third World slaves, in the midst of super-comfortable housing, in an abundance of choice and travel and an assurance (it now seems) of a similar bountiful future--there is not sharing, there is greed.

So how wrong we were, we who believed that in a world of plenty, people would be willing to play "share and share alike". How wrong we were! Instead we see an attitude of "I am smart, brilliant, I suffered through years of study, my youth was painful in going to school, acquiring knowledge was torture, therefore I deserve a monster house, excess food to waste, people of lower status to do my shit-work for me. Too bad for their kids. But we need them to clean our toilets and haul our garbage, and sweat in July over hot asphalt fixing the roads we will drive on.

Oh, there have been dreamers from time immemorial. Buddha and Mohammed and Jesus and Marx and Engels and Confucius and Eugene Debs and they were all wrong and my country has sunk into Fascism and it is my country that has The Bomb and my country that has already proved its willingness to use it and my country that has a brain-damaged alcoholic abusive insensitive brute controlling the ugly power that is torturing and killing people.

So we may celebrate the triumph of Evo Morales, but we know, if we think, we who live with the power of Power, that we can wipe out every dreamer's dream with our big vicious Bomb, the ultimate fasces; the whip, the gun, the club of the brutality that subjects us all. (Do the rich feel secure? Many live behind walls and bars.)

What can be done? Mothers can only clutch their babies to their breast and wish for some kind of justice, more kindness, some kind of security, of freedom from eternal indebtedness to other humans. No wonder they need a merciful god--but they know their God is a brute, too, but they hope there may be at times a gentle side to him/her/it.

That, too, is flimsy fiction that will evaporate with every morning sun.

Still, there is still--the Sun.

Ethel C. Hale