Dr. Jan Meyer: Oldsters learn to accept that ‘it is what it is’

By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer
The Biker's Diary

There are many wonderful things that happen to people of my age. There are also many irritating things that happen to people of my age. I am hoping that in the end, the wonderful things outweigh the irritating ones.

Up close to the top of the list of irritations is that I forget way too many things. Just this week, we were traveling to Nebraska for a quick trip. First we were going to attend an event at which we would be able to see many people with whom Spouse Roger had worked, along with spouses many of whom had become friends. We made use of the opportunity to see other people too, having a 7 a.m. breakfast with one, a mid-morning coffee break with another, lunch with our great former next-door neighbors, and a long afternoon coffee with yet another. It was a good thing that Roger wrote a list of these meetings and where, or I would surely have forgotten them.

I forgot several things which I would normally have along. I didn’t check for the usually present spoon in my travel kit. I forgot to add moisturizer, and also shampoo.

I never leave without double-checking that I have my phone. I also ensure that if I’m going to be gone overnight that I take my very necessary eye medications. On this trip, we encountered a problem with our car, and stopped at a garage to try to get it fixed. It couldn’t be accomplished that day, so we went a block away and got a rental car, leaving our own there to pick up on the way back.

The forgetfulness kicked in when we transferred our stuff from our car to the rental. It wasn’t until bedtime that I realized my eye meds and phone charger, along with a couple of other necessary items that were in the same tote, did not make the transfer from car to car. Replacing those very necessary items can sure eat up any spare moments in a packed itinerary such as we had.

There are other examples of the frustration that forgetfulness can create that are more embarrassing than what I forgot on this trip. For example, recently I was — again — going through papers and files and came across some typewritten pages, the first one titled “Pioneer Days in Montana.” It started out “In the year 1888 we lived at Delavan, Minn. My father came from Lime Springs, Iowa, where he had been in the mercantile business.”

The writing included his father describing the Stork family “having two more children…a daughter Bessie and a boy Charley…and a daughter with my mother in Preston Minn., before moving west” to Montana.

He told about the long journey, seeing mountains and Indians for the first time, experiencing “western pioneer hospitality” along with the hardships of establishing a homestead. The first four pages were signed by Byron Claude Stork, 1940, with the address of 5004 N. Howard Street, Spokane, Wash. That was followed by two more pages of a more detailed account of true pioneer living.

When I came upon these, I realized that I had no clue when or from whom I had gotten these pages. They are clearly an important part of someone’s history. I am hoping that someone might recognize these pages as part of their own family’s history and let me know about it. Unless that someone is my age and also experiences a lot of forgetfulness.

Awhile back I was with friends who were talking about “the things they didn’t tell me about getting older and it p____s me off.” We all agreed there were a lot of them, and it would be fun to write a book about that. I agreed, and I’ve got a pretty long list of things to add, forgetfulness, of course, on that list. And now I’ve forgotten the things I meant to add to this diary page!

On the other hand, there are lots of wonderful things that happen at my age. The most obvious, of course, is the senior citizen discounts. Many times the cashier checking me out of this or that store would be very hesitant about asking me if I am a senior citizen. That surprised me, because I think it is pretty obvious that I am. I was told more than once that they are never sure if they should ask, because some people get really mad. I explain that I love those discounts, and want every one I can possibly get!

More important than the discounts are what we learn about ourselves as we mature. I think we become more appreciative of things around us, and more gracious about letting others know about that appreciation. One time a long time ago (Sept. 30, 2002) I was listening to Public Radio when I heard about Eddie Harwell who, at 84, was retiring from announcing the Detroit Tigers games. He used the occasion to say thank you instead of goodbye, to say hello to a new life and adventures. He said “thanks for allowing me to be part of your life. I may have been a small part of your life but you have been a large part of mine.”

I think we learn more about ourselves from all the experiences leading up to this age. If we’re lucky, we learn to accept and like ourselves more, and worry less about what we can and can’t do. I call it my process of re-threading my head, and it requires that we accept that “it is what it is.”

Perhaps that re-threading was best stated once by Franz Kafka on a birthday card: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”