A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Here are five things you should never say to an older person, let alone anyone else:
When you have just learned that your friend or family member has just received a serious diagnosis, do not ever tell them something like, "Well, my uncle Herniated had something just like that and it turned into a terminal whatever in short order." People too often succumb to the temptation to tell a person with a serious illness or diagnosis about all of the people they knew who had the same problem and about all of the serious consequences that ensued. Turn the conversation to a compassionate concern for your friend or family member and skip all the extensive knowledge you have about whatever it is.
Don't ask anyone if they are wearing their hearing aids. Hearing is an exasperating and some times serious problem and a sensitive issue. If someone says "what" a few times, just repeat what you said and let it go at that.
Don't unload your own troubles unless you are asked to tell someone about them. Many people are under tremendous physical and emotional strain dealing with their own circumstances and the last thing they need is a boat load of grief about your own situation unless invited to unload it.
Don't tell someone, as someone told my wife one day, "Gee, you really are not looking well. You look awful." Just when my wife was really struggling and we thought she was looking very much improved and very well. Negative comments to anyone can be a real mood changer and downer so, for heaven's sake, if you must comment, say something like "You're looking so much better!" Positive comments can provide an uplift in spirits.
Don't start telling someone who has just gone through a life time of miseries in the last little while what doctor, or special treatment, or chiropractor, or herbal medicine or whatever that you know about that will cure them.
In short, be compassionate, positive, encouraging, uplifting, and cheerful when you talk to anyone, and, especially, an older person whose struggles are probably keeping them awake at night and who are trying desperately to calm their troubled and some times hopeless feelings. People need hope and love and encouragement and chocolate chip cookies and not discourses about all the sick people they know and all the miraculous treatments they can prescribe. Never, never make a negative comment to an older person and, especially, a sick person. Like the nurse in Denver who told me as I was leaving the hospital after being diagnosed 40 years ago (erroneously, as it turned out) with MS, "Our patients are usually back here in a wheelchair in about six months." I can't tell you how much that statement haunted me for 50 years. What I like are doctors who, like my urologist, who recently told me when I said I had to go next to a neurologist, "I don't think that will be so bad,'' or my ENT who told me when working with my hearing problems after learning of my neurologist diagnosis who said, "I wouldn't lose a minute's sleep worrying about that. Something else will get you long before that will." I can't tell you how many times I have recited these words of hope and encouragement over and over in my mind and how much these positive comments have helped me.
These gorgeous dahlias won't be around much longer. Apparently we are spared a few more nights from heavy frosts, but my tomatoes got nipped a couple of nights ago when the temperature wasn't supposed to dip below 39 degrees.
Ducks are quite graceful in flight, but this front end view of a mallard who, along with three other ducks, found a comfortable residence in the fountain in front of the Jordan River LDS Temple in SLCity UT, lends no doubt as to why ducks must waddle. Otherwise, how could a duck navigate with a front end as big as a Boeing 747?
I have been on my own since I left home just after my seventeenth birthday to attend the University of Wyoming. Throughout my four years at Wyoming, I never received a nickel of help from home so I worked 30-40 hours a week to get myself through school. During my senior year, I married my girlfriend and then she and I worked together to get through four years of graduate school. When I graduated from Michigan with a Ph.D., we didn't owe a penny of debt to anyone. I didn't plan my life this way. We just went from day to day to figure out what to do next to stay afloat, pay for our babies, pay for our groceries and rent. While we worked hard, we didn't think we were doing anything special but, rather, just depending on ourselves to keep going. We thought that was the way life was supposed to work.
As a result, my wife and I have always been independent and likely to tell others who offered us help that "thank you, we can do it ourselves, but we appreciate your offer." The older we get, however, the more often we actually need help now and then, and we have had to learn some lessons about how to give and receive help. Old people can sometimes be stubbornly independent, refusing help when they actually need help, refusing to give up the car keys when they can no longer drive, and continuing to keep struggling with things they can no longer effectively or safely do themselves.
Giving and receiving help, however, sometimes requires the wisdom of Solomon. When should we offer to help someone? When should we gratefully learn to receive help when we need it, or, occasionally, even when we may not actually need it? Well-meaning people can be too helpful, too eager to jump in and take over, and assume that older people, particularly, can't make decisions or do things for themselves. Of course, some are no longer capable of making effective decisions or doing things for themselves. But there is a fine line here. People still need to do whatever they can do to take care of themselves to maintain their own self esteem. And well-meaning people can end up simply enabling people to continue to depend on the helper when those they are trying to help should take care of themselves. And, if we are the helper, we can sometimes, regrettably, end up in an acrimonious situation when the stress of unfortunate situations gets too much to handle.
My wife and I have learned that, as the list of things we can no longer safely or effectively do grows longer, we can, however reluctantly at first, gratefully accept help from others for some chores and errands. But we still remain proudly independent in continuing to do everything we can do ourselves just as long as we are permitted to do so by the continuing transition into older age. We remain grateful for sensitive family members and neighbors and friends who have in the past and continue to assist us on some of the needs and chores that keep us going and to make our lives more pleasant and rewarding. But it took me awhile to swallow my pride and be willing to get help for things I have otherwise done all my life. Now I always remain grateful for the Good Samaritans and for the contributions their time and consideration make in our lives.