by Peggy Goldtrap
Question for the day? When is it time to quit? Just asking that question goes against every grain in our body though intellectually we know the question is legitimate. As the years roll by, everyone must weigh those questions; look clear-eyed at the answers.
The older group of Seasoned Citizens was raised in an era when every kid learned this lesson: Toughen up! Don’t quit! If you start something, you finish it. If you sign up to play Little League you are going to be on the team until the last blade of grass has been picked by the lousy right fielder.
Children were shamed into success. Quitters were losers. The philosophy created a tough generation that whipped the enemy and won WWII, but it also left a wreckage of guilt and failure. It formed steel-eyed scientists who invented the atom bomb. It defined a stubborn President who said the buck stops here. It educated healers who worked tirelessly day and night to provide comfort. Don’t Quit produced a leader who said: “We Shall Overcome.”
A long time ago, people met and married with Don’t Quit commitment. No matter what, thick or thin, through good times and bad, in sickness and health ‘til death do us part’.
Family was sacred and its privacy was protected at all costs. ‘What’s said behind closed doors stays there. Don’t wash your dirty linens in public.’ Don’t Quit.
We can play ‘Yes-But’ with every scenario and exceptions do exist, but ‘back then’ there was a public compact wrapped around strength, and common values supporting an internal framework for operating society. First generation students graduated from colleges with monetary and social assistance from generations, behind them, cheering them and pushing them to graduate. ‘Make the family proud.’
People died for the name of God, willingly and stoically, as mankind wrestled with deities of stone versus Spirit. Primitive tribes, offended by strange myths mesmerizing their children, killed the ‘demon tongues’ in honor of tribal truth. Don’t Quit, even in the face of torture and death.
In our lives we have been blessed with many years cocooned in a large, close-knit extended family. As the family grows, matures and commits to its individual households, we see these beloveds less and less. Their lives are in a state of growth and expansion. Statistically, ours are not.
At this point of life we can pray to stay healthy, remain in our own space, and vital to each other. These thoughts are common to most aging adults.
In 2016 our lives turned upside down. GAG had a stroke, a brain bleed, that compromised his ability to concentrate on the softball games he dearly loved. A reduction in hearing affected his joy of music and stage performance. Going out with friends now begs the question: ‘What’s the noise level in the restaurant? How far do I have to walk to get there? Is it crowded so we have to stand in line?’ So many little things that we once ‘did without thinking or on the spur of the moment’ are becoming challenges to energy. This is not as dismal as it sounds especially when we daily count blessings in abundance. Most of our challenges are a result of living long and fruitful lives filled with world-wide experiences and an abundance of laughter and love. Losing any of these wonderful moments and memories stirs regret but ‘Quit’ is another animal.
For the last 22 years we have written a column for Seniors Today. It has been a joy to be associated with all the staff and readers. In recent years several of our children have contributed their views on relationships, humor, history, travel. The excellence of this opportunity and the pleasantness therein has caused us to ask: ‘How much longer can and should we keep this up.’ Since our experiences have been eclectic, our writing reflects that. Writing has to have a freshness or edge in order to deserve reader attention. When the edge begins to look like rick-rack, is it time to Quit?
Unquestionably, it’s getting harder.
Don’t Quit, but is there a time to move on with grace and when is that time? Where is the line? What determines action? What is true and reasonable as we approach the statistical end of life? Sorry to disappoint but our crystal ball just shattered. We know the questions but we don’t know the answers. We think about quitting but what’s next?
Our fear is that quitting means sitting, physically and mentally. In the South we call it ‘letting the mind go to seed.’ We’ve seen what happens to people who close the doors and wait to die. They do! ‘When one door closes, another door opens.’ Is that true when you’re near the statistical end of life?
As all of us grow older, statistics indicate we’ll encounter more health challenges. Yes but, we see people every day moving through their daily activities hooked to breathing devices, or rolling in wheelchairs. Our intuitive voices scream: ‘Stay in the game, Don’t Quit.’
Sometime this summer, grandchildren and great-grands will fill our condo with noisy excitement. There will be laughter and enormous energy bounced against every wall. We’ll love every second, but it’s not meant for them to stay. They live elsewhere, they only tease us with a visit.
As the words exhaust themselves to conclusion, a truth is being birthed: how can we Quit what was never intended to be permanent. We can’t leave behind a place we were never meant to stay. We can only move forward through events until motion is impossible. We’re earth visitors for a little while, blips, blinks in space. When life energy is exhausted, we move on. The best may still be ahead, it’s just different.
Until then, Don’t Quit.