What if Winston Churchill had decided at a typical retirement age in today’s culture—lets say 65— to do nothing more with his life than put on a smoking jacket, sit back in his big leather chair, and spend the rest of his days petting his pet poodle Rufus. Surprisingly, Churchill did not have a pet bull-dog as is commonly believed. That is just a myth that seemed to be greatly amplified by the fact that his own appearance and personality were associated with that tenacious breed throughout the war years. If he had allowed himself the same kind of lifestyle as his own pampered poodle in his senior years he would not have been the prime minister of England twice. The first time he led England through the intensely difficult time frame of WW II. He served again for a second term in 1951. By then he was already 77 years old. One of his famous quotes was “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel when she was 70 years old, despite the obstacle of being a woman in politics at all in 1969, a time that certainly didn’t encourage such a thing.
Older individuals in the artistic arena were Grandma Moses, who didn’t even begin to paint until she was 75, and only had her first exhibition when she was 80, and Claud Monet who was still painting masterpieces into his eighties. And then there was Jessica Tandy who didn’t win her Oscar until she was 80 years old.
I can hardly imagine the stamina required of Noah Webster who did not publish his first dictionary until he was 69 years old! What if he had the “Let’s earn all we can, (or scam all we can) put it away, and run off to our hammocks and house in the Islands at 55.” mentality that modern-day insurance companies and financial advisers promote ? What if everybody who laid all the ground work for our society’s prosperity hadn’t worked as they did then, to establish the groundwork for what we enjoy now, by being so productive. In the past our society’s most valuable people worked until that time when their bodies were no longer able to maintain their mind’s expectations of them? Without them where would we all be now?
Yes, I know that so much of the prosperity many of you expected to achieve by this point has crumbled quite a bit, as portfolios have diminished in value, and pensions and benefits been cut back. I know that for many the economy has hemmed them in and thinking about retirement at an early age is just a joke, nevertheless we still have to be thankful for what we have. If not for the work of those who have gone on before, how much less would there be for the rest of us to enjoy now following the downturns in our economy?
The main reason I chose to write this today, is to tell you that if you are a retiree who needs to consider further employment, beyond what you thought would be your “hammock days”, don’t feel discouraged. One of the benefits of working at an older age is that the knowledge you already have is indispensible, and the wisdom that you have is a valuable resource that can be shared with those around you. I am not about to encourage those of you who do not need to work at paid employment to do so. Leave those jobs for other younger workers if you are able. But don’t just sit back and do nothing for Heavens sake! There is such a need for volunteers, for babysitters for your grand kids, for help for your children who may be run off their feet. There is work to be done in your community, or even in your own back yard. Get gardening and growing things, produce to share with others or rose bushes to thrill the souls of those who pass by. And why just let them pass by? If they stop to admire, then ask them if they’d like to see the rest of the gardens too! Not everybody is so blessed. So many people are forced to jumble together the short hours they are given at two or three part time jobs these days. They are so busy trying to make ends meet that they don’t seem to be able to round up enough help from their equally pressured peers when they need help to move. And not everyone is able to repair things that need to be done when they get there. If you are fit enough or skilled enough for either task then be an Angel to someone.Wouldn’t that be a lot better way to spend your time than watching Jeopardy and Let’s Make A Deal all day?
My mother is 83 years old; she enjoys her TV. and she has every right to. She isn’t able to work at physical things all day long; that would be absurd. Mom does keep really busy though, for someone her age, and a good part of her time is, as it was all of her earlier life, beside the kitchen stove. She loves to cook, but she does not need to cook a quantity of very much for herself. Despite that obvious fact she still prepares enough for an army sometimes. When Mom sees the good makings of a homemade soup on the clearance rack in the produce section, or the meat department marks down cuts to where she can afford a little extra, then she buys a bit more. Then she gets busy and makes enough to call up one of her girls, who may be too busy to cook that day and she says “I have a big pot of homemade mushroom soup here on the go. Come and get some if you want to .” or she calls up a son-in-law and says. “Hey! I have your favourite strawberry rhubarb pie, hot out of the oven. Are you going to come and get it?”
If you visit her she always runs to the freezer for a treat that she begs you to take off her hands just before you leave because “the freezer is too full” or she doesn’t like something anymore. Not liking what she cooks anymore is a terrible affliction to have, and it seems to have hit her hard anytime our son Steven visited her lately. The fact that he is between jobs seems to be very hard on her appetite by the end of his visit, at least temporarily.While most older seniors do succumb to injuries from falls from time to time, my mother’s was rather unusual. She cracked her ribs severely once while trying to get something out of the bottom of her chest freezer—no doubt something to give away!
The maintenance staff in her seniors’ apartment complex love my Mom. She frequently drops them off plates of sweet treats at their office. Her neighbour’s love her too, as she is often at their door with slices of pie for their desserts at the supper hour. She realizes that not all of them are blessed with the ability to still use their ovens and she is.She also knows what it is to feel helpless at times. The severe eczema that for much of her life kept her hands too raw to handle flour for pastry making is at bay now, and although she still needs to protect her hands with white gloves when she bakes, she is thrilled to be able to use her hands at all in service to others— and so she does.
She is the Queen of our family, and three years younger than Queen Elizabeth II.She stays just about as busy as the Queen does too, visiting different family members, or travelling here and there with them. I am reminded of what Queen Elizabeth II said when she was 21 years old and not yet the Queen, but looking toward that day. They could have been my mothers own words “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
I love you Mom, x o x o Vonnie