Old age is not for sissies – lessons learned

By Bev Pechan

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When I was younger, I remember that grandparents, aunts and uncles in those black and white snapshots looked very old to me. There they were, smiling, having survived the Great Depression, the rationing and sacrifices of World War II and even the Korean War. Hard work showed on their faces. Snow-white hair never saw a dye bottle and they wore the shapeless clothing of the day. They got felt slippers for Christmas and chenille robes and often moved in with their children and grandchildren after a spouse passed.  Nowadays college-educated adult children move back home because they have not learned how to make it in today’s world without all the creature comforts society demands for us and advertising says we must have.

My late friend “Louie the Lawyer” used to like saying that old age was not for sissies and he was right. In his profession, he shunned divorce cases and family feuds as often as possible. Ranch-raised,  he was for the little guy and I recall that during the times I worked for him, it was not unusual for him to sit down with a farm family of sometimes several generations and figure out ways for them to keep the farm or ranch. It also was not unusual for him to “forget” to bill the family for services rendered. To him, those who preyed upon the ones who earned the right to enjoy their golden years were not to be taken advantage of. He loved nipping at the ankles of those aggressors who tried and he was at his absolute best during his years as Pennington County Commissioner about 20 or so years ago. Nothing was more pleasurable for him than to catch one of his peers or a person of questionable political integrity in the act and say so at a public meeting.  Of course, those who valued their insider moves were very uncomfortable with this. Louie gave his signature chuckle: “Heh! Heh! Heh!.”

Times change. Trending now shows age 70 to be the new 50. Medical advances have seniors living longer than before and while that is great for golf courses and ocean cruises, those eligible for Social Security are paying exorbitant amounts for almost everything just to get by with the basics and sometimes not even those. When President Franklin Roosevelt first looked at Social Security as a helpmate in old age in the 1930s, the average person did not live long enough to collect the benefits he or she was promised and the government counted on that.

I never really imagined myself as an old person, but here I am. I’m thankful for these extra years because I have seen both the beautiful and ugly sides of the world and much prefer the former. I’m appreciative of the people I have met over the years and do enjoy the gentle humor of life experiences that is attained with blowing out lots of birthday candles.  Here’s to lots more of the same.

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