Let’s Talk

Apparently, talking on the phone has become a thing of the past. Young people won’t pick up the phone anymore and consider phone callers rude, according to an article I read recently. Much better to text, because you can formulate your thoughts without being put on the spot. One woman said one friendship consisted only of texting, and she was happy with that. I had to wonder what would happen if she and her friend met face to face. Would one say something the other didn’t like? Would they be uncomfortable? Or would they just sit side by side and text?

That’s what I saw two young men doing at a restaurant recently. This is a common phenomenon now, but it still puzzles me. If I meet a friend for coffee or a meal, we’re often the only ones talking; everyone else (that is, younger than us) is staring at their computers or phones. Way back when I was young, it would be akin to people meeting for dinner and each one reading a different book. It would have been considered rude if not strange. Isn’t the point of getting together to share stories, talk about our lives?

I was with a group of friends, all of us in our 70s, and we were complaining to each other about how fast technology changes, how we don’t understand it and how frustrating that can be. Our conversation was lively and humorous, flowing from one topic to another. I can’t imagine how it could have been reduced to texting. I guess we would have been using the LOL phrase a lot (or is that passe? Let me know) or the laugh emoji. But laughing—in person—can be infectious and, from what I read, good for your mental and physical health.

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Regrets After a Friend’s Death

A friend of mine died recently, and the praise heaped on her after her death was inspiring. Friends posted on Facebook and her memorial page their memories of her: smart, funny, loving and brave, with a smile that would light up the room; someone who listened and uplifted others; a woman who made the world a better place.

I doubt Karen knew how much she meant to people. That’s the problem with obituaries and funerals: they come too late for the person who died. Her memorial service was beautiful, with people from all parts of her life praising her—siblings who remembered her as the loving, older sister; co-workers who regarded Karen as a mentor and role model; friends who fondly recalled trips, game nights and campfires together. Was Karen listening from the other side, amazed and appreciative at what she was hearing?

Karen had been suffering from an incurable disease for a long time, yet she faced her challenges with a smile, never lost her curiosity about life or gave in to self-pity. Even while suffering herself, she made a point of comforting others. She inspired me with her courage to never give up, to keep enjoying life as much as she could. In fact, a day or so before she died, she was trying to install a new printer so she could write friends and let them know how she felt about them.

I wish I had followed her lead. Realizing she only had a few months or even a few weeks left, I was determined to let her know how much I cherished our time together. I hoped to see her one last time, but, if her illness prevented that, I wanted to write it down in a letter. Unfortunately, I waited too long, and she died before I got a chance.

We all have regrets after someone who is beloved to us dies. A friend of mine told me he suffers from not telling his college professor how much his mentoring meant to him. His professor helped him get a scholarship, encouraged him in his studies and very likely changed the course of his life for the better. Although I helped my friend search the Internet to see if his professor was still alive, we never found him, and he’s most likely passed on. 

I wish I had been more patient and understanding with my mother in the last years of her life when she was suffering from dementia. Looking back, I can see that her outbursts came out of frustration at losing her memory. All I can do now is be more understanding with friends and acquaintances who are suffering from memory loss.

Regrets are useless, I’ve been told, so instead I’ve made a promise to myself to let people in my life know what they mean to me—before it’s too late. 

Voting Old

In the analyses of the recent election, many commentators noted that young voters helped Democrats win, especially in close races. It shouldn’t be surprising because research has shown that younger adults tend to be more liberal and vote Democratic while older folks are more conservative and vote Republican.

Yet it’s hard to grasp because I had assumed that my generation of baby boomers would carry our liberal politics into old age. We were the generation that opposed the Vietnam War, supported civil and women’s rights and started the first Earth Day celebrations.

In my (adopted) hometown, I remember in my 20s seeing that tidal wave of change. A city council that consisted of white men was replaced with two women, an environmentalist, a black man and a gay man. At the time it seemed revolutionary. Yet somehow those young voters who threw the old white guys out are now getting more conservative. How does this happen?

Research shows that as we age, we process information slower. I was shocked to read that our mental capabilities peak in our 20s and head downhill since then. However, even though we might not be as smart as our younger selves or the younger generation, I was glad to read that we compensate with wisdom accumulated over decades.

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