Feeling Incredibly Old

I haven’t admitted to being old, only to growing older. The way I figure, the “elderly” moniker comes next birthday when I reach that age when I can no longer fudge the demographics to convince myself I’m not old, that I’m just in late, late, late middle age.

But now I’m feeling incredibly old. And disheartened. And vulnerable. Admittedly, the vulnerability comes from a slowly-heeling bum knee that has nothing to do with anything that is going on in the world, but all the rhetoric about protecting the elderly (of whom, apparently, I am one, at least according to The Bob statistics) has put me firmly in the old age category, and not being able to easily get around offers additional proof.

Even worse than all that is the truth — I’ve lived through pandemics, large outbreaks of terrifying and highly infectious diseases, horrendous flu seasons, wide-scale disseminations of dubious vaccinations that came close to being mandated. Comparatively speaking, The Bob is just another over-exploited, would-be end of the world scenario that was conveniently forgotten when a more immediate (and more obvious) threat came into being.

I’ve lived through violent times, too. Protests, both political and racial; civil unrest; fathers fighting sons; riots; burning; looting; terrorist tactics perpetrated by US citizens on US citizens. I’ve also seen men with criminal records upheld as heroes because of cop brutality, as if being beaten up or killed suddenly erases their unsavory past. (Oddly, both men at the heart of two of the worst race riots were substance abusers who perpetrated crimes on women — one was a wife beater and abuser, the other a man who once held a knife to a pregnant woman’s belly while his friends ransacked and looted her house.)

Too much, too much, too much.

It’s hard to remember that for many people, all of this — The Bob and the riots (and yes, a riot by any other name is still a riot) — is new.

A young man waited on me the other day when I went to the store, a new employee, who I hadn’t yet met. I didn’t know the etiquette of the situation —I wasn’t sure if I should reach out because of what was going on or simply ignore our skin color differences and pretend all was well in the world — so I did what I always do: err on the side of connection.

I asked if he was okay, and made a gesture indicating the world at large. He gave me a closed-off look and turned away from me. Then, apparently deciding to answer in kind, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Thank you for asking. I’m okay here in this bubble.” (And it does seem as if this area is a protective bubble.) Then, with tears in his eyes, he admitted that he was worried because even though he was safe, he had family in big cities. I offered words of sympathy, and he responded, “But everything will be better after this.”

That’s when I realized I really am old, not just in years, but in experience. Things might be better after this — I suppose it’s possible. But I’ve seen too much, been around too long, been pulled this way and that by too many power struggles of all kinds (including those in the volatile interracial neighborhood I grew up in) — to believe in easy answers and simple words.

One good thing about being old — I don’t have to pretend to have any answers. I can leave the world to the young, and maybe that’s as it should be.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

9 Responses to “Feeling Incredibly Old”

  1. Kathy Holmes Says:

    I’ve been thinking the same things. I then also realized all these issues in the media are all directed toward younger people. They’re not even talking to me. Loved the line about “all is forgotten when a more immediate and seen threat” appears. There’s the real story about people.

  2. Joe Says:

    You make a lot of great points. When I went to exactly two peaceful gatherings last Saturday locally, where everything current started, I noticed the generational weight of it all. It was tilted decisively to people 35 and younger, but of all colors this time, probably about 50/50 white and non-white. This was encouraging. What’s not encouraging is the apparent deification of you know who. Well, I don’t do cults. I don’t worship blindly. I think for myself and it sets me apart, I guess. Around here, there is a flap going on over a business whose now-former employee posted racist garbage on her social media ages ago. She forgot about it, allegedly, but someone noticed and reposted it. The owner fired her (she’s his daughter incidentally) as soon as he found out. Nope… too late, too little. Major retailers pulled his product from shelves. So now his business is effectively burned down just as much as any of the other businesses on the street here, over something he had no control over. Does no one see the irony? I wrote an email to each brand-puller business and laid into them and compared their actions to those of the rioters. I don’t care, the one can burn my membership card for all I care. They need me more than I need them. This is stupid. As if no one ever, as a dumb kid, a foolish thoughtless teenager, made a mistake out of immaturity. So everyone piles on and punishes yet another “minority” (the owner is Palestinian-become-American, built the business from scratch, an American success story, etc.) and the abuse cycle continues while everyone virtue-signals and engages in feel-good backpatting.

    Sorry, Pat, feel free to delete this if it’s too political. I don’t mind.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      No way am I going to delete your comment. I like hearing (seeing?) what you have to say. My world is so insulated now, by geography, The Bob, inclination, and age, that all I know about what is going on out there is from non-media people. I thought only white people were considered racist — so if a Palestinian girl posted something racist, shouldn’t that not have counted? (I’m being ironic here.)

      This whole situation is really scary — even those who are black, well-know, and well-liked, cannot say anything against what’s going on, can’t point out the lies and propaganda. Apparently, we are supposed to think only one way (or maybe, not think at all.)

      The generation divide is interesting. I have a hunch I am not the only one with a bit of age on them who thought that except for a few isolated instances, the race wars were over and we all won. From what I have been reading though, the post-civil rights era has been about indoctrinating black youngsters into believing all whites are racist. Some of what is going on seems so pre-civil-rights. Back then, burning buildings and looting stores WAS about getting back at the white businesses who were taking advantage of them, but that old ideology now has them burning down non-white businesses.

      In the midst of all this, I have been impressed by how many blacks of the younger generation are fighting back (verbally) against the idea that they were / are victimized, that all whites are racist, that the original victim that set off the whole tragic scenario was a martyr. They are saying this was an instance of one person doing bad things to another person.

      It does confuse me, though — we’re supposed to be colorblind and treat everyone the same, but if we do, we’re racist. Huh?

      This quote by Thomas Sowell, a black economist, pretty much sums up my confusion: “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.” It feels to odd to go from being a radical thinker or a liberal to a . . . well, not radical thinker, and definitely not a liberal by today’s standards.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    I agree with you Pat!!! It’s tough getting old, but it is prep for the next event. If you put out a picture, I could not pull it up.. Stay safe!!

  4. Estragon Says:

    I spent the first decade or so of my adult life (from age 17) living and working in small, remote, mostly indigenous communities in northern Canada. The white population could usually be counted on two hands, with a native population of a few hundred to a few thousand. The conditions were near third-world, but in a first world country. This bothered me big-time. Surely, having people live like this in a relatively wealthy country was the height of racism. Some of the things I saw haunt me still.

    It took a good two years or so for me to better understand the complexity of the issues. I won’t get into the issues per se, but having experienced them first hand for those ten years, let’s just say I have a far more nuanced view which doesn’t align with the population at large. In a sense, I was “old” by age 19 or 20. There are structural and systemic reasons why things are the way they are, and unfortunately there are deeply entrenched and politically powerful people (including within the indigenous community itself) with a strong interest in keeping things as they are. Although educational attainment still lags far behind the wider population, there are now enough well educated indigenous young people to give me hope some of these entrenched interests might give way to a generation capable of critical thinking, and of dealing with the issues as they really are, rather than resorting to the simplistic racist tropes.

    So, having felt “old” for some forty years now, I can relate to your “oldness” feeling.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Maybe seeing the complexity of issues is what makes us old. And knowing there are no easy answers. And seeing that everyone is vested in their own interests, no matter what they say to the contrary.

      Nothing irritates me more than people who spout the party line by rote, as if those empty words will solve everything, so I especially appreciate your thoughtful comments. You always give me something to think about. Thank you.

  5. Sam Sattler Says:

    Beautifully written, Pat. You expressed a lot of what most people of a certain age are feeling and thinking right now. It’s really hard for people like us not to be pessimistic because we’ve seen it all before and we understand the odds against things really being better after all of this. It never seems to happen that way, does it. I know that in my case the one big change is that I’m less likely to trust anyone in authority ever again to do the right thing for the right reasons.

    Politicians are near the bottom of the totem pole as far as having my respect nowadays. All of them. Everywhere.

    On the lighter side, when you reach the age where you are officially “elderly,” you can comfort yourself for a few more years by including yourself in the subcategory of “young elders.” I think that works until at least 75 or so, so I have another three years or so to claim that status.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I thought I was beyond shockability. With all the research I did for my books, I knew how corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are, but what I’m seeing now is truly beyond belief. Besides which, so many situations I thought were “solved” turn out to be echoes of previous decades. Like the Russians. I didn’t think anyone cared what the Russians thought or did anymore. Apparently, all sorts of things — not just racial things — happened when I was dealing with my own traumas.

      Young elder. Okay. I can deal with that!

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