Please note this post is written by the Crazy-Mama of the family.
The Sensible-Father does not necessarily share all the sentiments!
Here’s a little girl and her great-grandmother. Mother and grandmother were there too, but we didn’t get a picture of them all together.
We did, however, get some funny stories about the oldest living generation……let’s call the main character Great-Grandpa. He came to visit from his little farmhouse in a nearby village. There were crumbs on the table, which he swept up into his hand and promptly deposited on the floor. He had forgotten he was now in town and there would be no chickens running into the kitchen to demolish them!
On another occasion, Great-Grandpa came to the grandparents’ place, where, as a special treat, they ran him a bath. As per his life-old custom, he filled a cup with water and splashed it over himself!
These smile-inducing stories punctuated a discussion about how we care for the aged. A kiwi example was cited (not by us) – individual homes in a little community with sports facilities, garden etc. But even there, as nice as it was (and much nicer than the more usual apartment block complexes), something was missing – people under the age of sixty! We couldn’t follow the conversation fully, but we did pick up and agree that old folks’ homes on the whole are not quite right. A community loses wisdom and experience when the aged are “kept” away from society in general. Children miss out, young people miss out, middle-agers miss out and the elderly themselves miss out too.
Something we have noticed over and over on this trip is old folks contributing meaningfully to their families and to their communities. There have been countless examples – right from the very first place we stayed in (Singapore, where the 80+ year old Grandmother went out each day with her barrow to collect cardboard for recycling)….to the ladies at the market here in Brasov, bringing their home-grown produce or homemade cheese or hand-carved wooden spoons in to town from the villages to sell. All throughout Asia and eastern Europe we have seen old ladies and old men still working. This is such a contrast to New Zealand where (excuse the generalising) there is an expectation that at age 65 you will stop working and embrace leisure.
Even if this were a desirable model, it would not work, not with the demographics we have these days. It will soon be impossible for the ever-enlarging “oldies” group to be supported by an ever-diminishing younger workforce. (Rob does not disagree with this bit).
And as hinted at already, I do not think putting my feet up permanently in twenty years’ time (not even to knit all day – wink) is going to cut it for me. Just this week I have realised that there is no urgency to bring to fruition my visions within the next ten years. Assuming I might live to be eighty or ninety or so, I still have more than half my life left! While I would like to move to a farm as soon as we return and start the process of city-girl-turns-country, I can see that staying in the suburbs for another decade does not relegate me to a whole lifetime there. Starting a farm at fifty might seem crazy, but since when have we walked the sensible route? At least it would give time for some theoretical learning to occur while we wait – maybe we’d make fewer mistakes than if we jumped in the deep end right now! And even starting at fifty, gives perhaps thirty years of regular (although undoubtedly slow) work. In that time we could improve whatever ground we have, get the vege garden not just established, but in a seasonal rhythm, we could grow trees (even walnuts would be producing fruit before we died and we could have harvested a pine forest), raise piggies for curing our own bacon, raise chookies to have eggs to eat with the bacon, and even learn to spin wool from our own sheep’s backs in our spare time.
For the next few years while Rob makes his contribution at his chosen place of employment, when I’m not edumacating our children or weeding our garden or preserving our harvest or baking our bread or brewing our vinegar or petitioning the council to allow the keeping of chickens on our section (as could be done in the rest of the world without stringent regulatory red-tape) or knitting our socks and sewing our quilts or doing Pilates or practising hospitality or reading the classics or or or….I’ll be dreaming. Rob asked what I’d like to be doing in twenty years’ time and I answered without stopping to think, “To be a hippy.” There just might be time for that yet! When you reach retirement age and do not equate that milestone with reaching a use-by date, you can dream big. You can even dream for your great-grandchildren.
PS The two litres of honey brought home from the Grandpa’s house at the weekend, made by his own bees in his own backyard, just might have gone a long way to convincing SensibleMan that hippy is not so bad!
PPS If you’d like to see some of our intergenerational stories, please CLICK HERE.