My job as a first responder has given me opportunity to visit many of the homes of our most elderly citizens. I never know what to expect when entering these homes but several years of experience have taught me what to look for.
The first sign of an interesting elderly patient is usually the lack of a television in the living room. How many of us are treated to the memory of visiting elderly relatives who kept their televisions locked away? In many of the houses I visit, the living room is left solely for that, living.
I can still remember those days before television took over. When I was a kid, visiting our elderly relatives was both a unique and educational experience. This was during the time that the story tellers thrived, the folks who could command an audience while a lunch of buttered rolls and decaf coffee digested. Without the use of television, folks were able to capture and hold audiences solely by their gift of gab. How these performers could captivate the minds of the young and old back then will forever influence my thinking today.
The next thing I usually notice in these homes is the presence or lack thereof, a bookshelf. A poor bookshelf can usually be noted by the number of high gloss dust covers on display. There is nothing by Bill O’reilly or Al Franken that will find home on any reputable shelf. A good bookshelf is hard to read, several dull manuscripts with authors whose names are hard to recognize but whose accomplishments are world renowned. A good library will never give mention to the New York Times or any other best seller list.
I recently met an older gentlemen who was having trouble keeping his balance. On our first arrival it was a simple matter of placing him back in bed. When we returned a few hours later, his wife was insistent that he be taken to the hospital. I was unaffected by the situation until I saw the grim look on this 96yr old man’s face.
It was during the time that the fellas were gathering the stretcher that I noticed something that they had not. Just before they returned this elderly man of wisdom, a man who had lived through things I could only read about, began to cry. It was only for a moment but it was long enough to tear my heart to shreds.
This man had seen things that the history books could not explain. He was part of a living history that was dying every day. A story teller whose song was in danger of being left unsung.
It’s hard to watch our elder citizens, the holders of knowledge both current and ancient, being processed like cattle grown too sick for the range. I promised myself to never forget the contributions made by our elders, no matter what their current mindset may be.