elders

i write this in a whisper. i should be asleep. i was, then i had a nightmare, and now i can’t stop thinking about abandonment. not short-term or flighty abandonment, but the kind of long-term abandonment that many of our elders face, of people who get abandoned not by one person, but by the entire human system.

maybe love never quite comes, and community doesn’t exist in a strong way in most lives in the u.s. so after leaving the family for work or college, raising children, losing a life partner, losing a job, watching people pair off around you, losing friends to tragedy, getting hurt early in life and never being able to recover enough to open up to love…it can happen in so many ways.

loneliness makes people old before their time, makes them take care of others before themselves, makes them susceptible to folks who will take advantage of them, makes them unreasonably strong, sometimes makes them too comfortable with silence.

there are elders i’ve loved who have learned to grieve inside, take things in stride – take impossible pain and put a smile on it.

someone is on my mind and in my heart, her whole life is a huge aspect of how my whole life has been possible, she is looking past this world now and i wonder how her life felt to her, if she’s tired, ready, excited, scared, abandoned.

she can’t tell us. i don’t want to assume, or project, that would be a different form of abandonment.

in my dreams, flashbacks that aren’t mine keep showing up there, emotional flashbacks of moments i remember from oral histories of her life. since i got the news that my great aunt had a double stroke half my heart has been with her, wishing i could be with her, knowing its too late to be with her the way i always wanted to be, getting to know her, getting to document her life, on tape, telling stories. she’s not speaking now. and perhaps she’s done running the world.

and part of me feels like, finally, its ok, let go. and part of me feels like – wait, wait – i need to ask you so much…

i want to learn to be as focused and attentive with elders as i am with my nephew, so open to his wisdom and his learning process, not missing a thing he does, and finding all of it wonder.

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