Posted by Eileen
I once had a small group of old lady friends who were attempting to learn Tai Chi in my playroom. I had forgotten that my college age son was asleep in his bedroom off the playroom. He came out sleepily to what was not a pretty sight.
He nicknamed us the “Geriatric Ninja Turtles.”
We decided we’d be less likely to hurt ourselves or traumatize adult children, if we tried meditation instead. I had a Buddhist friend who had taught classes in meditation, so we asked him to instruct us. After a few weeks of sitting around with unzen like giggling by old ladies who needed help getting up from the lotus position, he obviously got discouraged or bored, so he decided to teach us how to fight by slamming our fists into someone’s temples, supposedly killing them. Since the tallest of us was 5 ft 2 in , we felt the odds were against our using this successfully unless we were attacked by a mob of homicidal “little people” or at least small-er people. (Besides this did seem a bit less than the spirituality we were seeking.)
So, we moved our meeting to the Episcopal Church Parish Hall and used the Book of Common Prayer along with the Bible for reflection and prayer. We had a new younger member, who one morning after praying, felt led to dance, so we all joined in. At that moment the rather staid Episcopalian Priest walked in. He was not led to join the holy dance.
Since it was Spring time, we began meeting in a grove of trees with a picnic table and benches on one of our member’s land. We all felt God’s presence in nature and as the breeze blew dogwood blossoms down around us, it was tempting to dance once again in joy. But rather than traumatize the unwary and to avoid the slippery slope into a naked Wicca experience in the woods (which would definitely not be a pretty sight), our youngest member played her guitar and we just sang.
We chose to rename ourselves ” The Group that Meets on Monday or Sometimes on Wednesday with an Option to meet instead on Friday.” For some reason this never caught on, so we remained the “Geriatric Ninja Turtles.”
Our three core members now began to have some health and fitness problems. One of us had lost a leg, I had to use a wheel chair for walking any distance longer than about a block, and our eldest member had had a heart attack.
So we expanded our search for mystical experience into both art and pottery classes at a nearby center for the arts. We found both of these to be a right brain, stay focused in the moment activity, which is actually very zen like. I was too klutzy to use the pottery wheel, but went to help my friend who had some difficulty because of her prosthetic leg. In the moments she didn’t need me, I molded a naked plump old man sitting modestly with his legs crossed, but with a delightfully mischievous smile on his face. I was really proud of my accomplishment. I even felt a great tenderness toward my creation. But when I showed it to my son, he was horrified, because it looked so much like my husband.
Young people are so easily horrified.
One day after class, while following the wisdom saying for old ladies, “Never pass by a bathroom without stopping,” my friend said that her prosthetic leg was causing her some pain, so could she use the wheelchair and would I be able to carry her leg to the car for her. I said that I could manage it and I marched behind her with her leg held over my shoulder like a rifle.
We had learned long ago that if you don’t learn to laugh at yourself and at trouble when you are young, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you are old.
Our group felt that we should minister somehow to those worse off than we were, so we began to visit people in the nursing home and take treats for them. Unfortunately, it turned out the people we were taking delicious cakes and cookies were diabetic and then one day while chatting with a woman on oxygen, she began to look distraught and I realized that I was standing on her oxygen line. We decided perhaps we should find a ministry less hazardous to others. So, we started a Clothes Closet for the poor at the church.
Any group of women of a certain age tend to talk about their various ailments. In another of my groups, we gave a prize for the one with the most new parts. The woman who won had two new hips, two new knees, and a new heart valve.
In spite of the validity of our complaints, when visiting those in the nursing home and hearing them wonder why their family didn’t visit them more often, the GNT’s (Geriatric Ninja Turtles) realized that it was probably because this kind of whining constituted most of the elderly’s conversation.
So, we made up a Scripture to help us avoid falling into this trap. (I know. You’re not supposed to make up Scriptures…….but the Holy Spirit is still alive and well ……… and we were old, it was dark, and we didn’t know what we were doing.)
Our Scripture is: “Monday is the day the Lord hath made for whining.”
We felt this would be allowable because, after all, the Israelites whined their way across a desert for forty years. Obviously, God got tired of listening to their whining, but one out of seven days seemed fair to us. So, we had an addendum that said if you didn’t whine on Monday, it was a movable feast. You could whine on one other day that week – but only one. We have found that this definitely affects the amount of time younger people are willing to spend around us.
Old age definitely has its challenges, but the gold and the grace in it are friendships and laughter.
And when you think about it, what beats those?
Tags: aging with grace, art as meditation, challenges of age, dance as prayer, Geriatric Ninja Turtles, humor of the elderly, laughter as grace, mystical experiences, spirituality of age, Tai Chi, whining, whining of age, Wiccas, wisdom saying for the old, Zen meditation
Posted by Eileen
I finally figured out that all the people I ever was from infancy on still live inside me. It makes for an interesting group most days. And if I don’t like how I feel today, I just return and watch the world when I was having a better time. Young people actually seem impoverished, because they haven’t got a clue about the riches we old guys carry around within us. I wouldn’t trade, because we can go back and be their age inside our memories, but they can’t come forward and enjoy the pleasures of a party without having to drive miles, spend hundreds or pay later with a hangover.
We do know more dead people and we have seen more tragedies up close and personal, so sometimes we hover protectively over our grandchildren. But we can look back at the past and our track record helps us trust that grace will continue to get us through even the hard things the future may bring.
As bad as our world seems in 2015, anyone having experienced life even in America for almost eighty years has witnessed a lot of rough history. Though we now know more about the evil in the world than we once did, the evil was always there. I find when I focus on the evils we haven’t overcome, I fear for coming generations. But when I look back even just on the changes in the world that I have experienced personally, I become more hopeful for the future.
Is having an armed presence in your school any more terrifying than living in homes with blackout curtains for fear of enemy bombers in the nineteen forties or huddling in a school hall during practice warnings of atomic attacks in the fifties. Is the number of families in this generation with members lost fighting in foreign countries anywhere close to the number in the second world war? Is fear born of lack of information as severe now as it was when we huddled around a radio to listen to news of Pearl Harbor or the beaches of Normandy. Children still die or are crippled from disease even in first world countries, but nothing like the numbers in the years before the polio vaccine. Are the numbers of African Americans isolated in ghettos, killed by police, harmed and held back by prejudice anywhere near the numbers in the fifties? Are all the top jobs in the corporate world still held by men? Are people still dying from aids at an alarming rate even in the first world? No matter how horrifying terrorists are today, have they managed inhumanity on the scale of Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, or even Harry Truman at Nagasaki? The answer to all of these is no.
Yes, there are new diseases, new dangers, new stresses and new groups struggling for equality. It is obviously not heaven on earth, but humanity is a work in progress. Our track record gives us reasonable hope that we will find ways to overcome more and more of these problems in each era.
Age, if we look at even our own life span’s historical picture, can give us a perspective.
Tags: 2015, 73 years of history, a treasury of memories, aging with grace, aids, black outs, fear of the future, historical perspective, hope for the future, police brutality, polio epidemics, prejudice, social change, the 1940's, the 1950's, track record hope