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Posts published in “Day: January 4, 2022”

Searching for permanence


Living ‘midst 90-thousand seniors - give or take a gray-haired head or two - you hear a lot of stories and share a lot of memories. That’s what we do. We remember.

Shorn of youth, involuntarily slowed of pace, removed from all that was “normal” wherever you were, you’re now here. New surroundings. New streets to learn. New names. New faces. Basically, transplanted into a lifestyle so very different than what you formerly knew.

If you listen carefully, you’ll recognize a sense of “commonality” in the experiences or relationships, though, no matter where you came from. You realize the water in the creek in Iowa was just as cold as the one you used to wade in in Oregon. The Oak trees you climbed in Idaho were just as tall and as strong as the ones in Indiana.

Different names. Different faces. But, the outpouring of shared memories makes it clear: we are not much different - one from the other.

One of the life experiences we’ve all lost is a sense of permanence. That feeling that what was there yesterday will be the same today. And tomorrow.

The banker in town who went to the same church your family did and who was behind the desk when you needed a loan for something. Always there. Always the same. Now, the person behind that desk is here today and gone tomorrow. If you want to access your account for a few dollars, stick a piece of plastic into a machine in a brick wall. Outside. In the elements. A loan? Some committee hundreds of miles away will see if you’re “credit worthy.”

Grocery shopping? Now, you call the store, read ‘em your list, wait an hour or two, then drive down and they’ll load the car. You don’t even get out. Cold. Impersonal. But, that’s how it’s done.

You used to know the guy you’d buy a car from. Same guy. Same smile. Now, that dealership is one of 200 owned by some investor group that shuffles faces at the showroom based on performance and meeting “corporate goals.”

The doctor you used to go to would get to know you - get to know your family and took the time to ask “What’s new with you?” Now, appointments limited to 15-minutes because that’s what meets Medicare requirements for reimbursement, rotating faces from one appointment to the next. Sometimes a doctor; more often an assistant. Family “medicine” today. Stay on schedule.

The lack of permanence in our senior years - loss of the familiar - ever-changing business and personal relationships - the fragility of those relationships - the steadily increasing speed of change - the loss of deep, interpersonal ties.

Bought a new car last week. A hybrid. Got more screens and multi-function buttons than I’ll ever remember. Radio - from a satellite 17,000 miles in space - has to be turned on with a special screen about four steps deep. I used to have a car with a radio you turned on and five familiar push buttons. No more.

New Year’s Eve. Used to be somewhere with a crowd downing highballs and dancing a bit. Now, I look down the street and see no cars at any house. Most dark. And, most neighbors - and us - in bed by nine.

The permanence of traditional things is all but gone. Dead as yesterday’s black and white television. Life now is a fast-paced, ever-changing, steady drumbeat of trying to keep up. Language. New ways to travel. Fashion. Music - if you can call it that. iPads. Computers. iPhones. Electric cars. Driver-less trucks and robot pizza delivery vehicles. Degrees online. Amazon, Costco and Walmart at your fingertips while putting familiar, local stores out-of-business.

And COVID. This strain. That strain. A new strain coming. Professionals talk of COVID - in one strain or another - being with us from now on. Like the seasonal flu. COVID, in its many forms, threatens what routines we have left.

What will that do to “permanence?” How will that alter our lives? Our relationships? How we live? How will our children and grandchildren learn? Where will they’ll learn? What year will your grandchildren be the age you are now.

Politics. Don’t get me started. The relationships we used to have with our “public servants.” Relationships they used to have among themselves. Real, honest and caring people. People who tried their best to solve problems, To see a need and solve it. No tribalism. No tit-for-tat.

Our military. Must we now worry about a coup? An attempted takeover of our government? It’s not far-fetched. Civilian and military leadership has been “war gaming” the idea - especially since January 6th. Certainly not the permanence we’ve been accustomed to. That we’ve lived with and depended on since 1776.

The word “permanence” itself is in danger of disappearing as our lives are being swept along in this river of constant change. Just as we get familiar with some new variant in our lives, another, more demanding version is introduced. Try keeping up with the words your kids use. New ones created by lifestyle or technology or just “picked up” from a new movie or music video or game on their iPhone.

We used to be able to keep our feet under us. We walked many of the same paths our mothers and fathers walked. And their parents before them. We shared a commonality of slow - but constant - change in our lives that was predictable and usually steady.

There’s no use longing for that type of lifestyle. It’s gone. It’s not coming back. If you hear someone these days talking about things “getting back to normal” or things “being the way they used to be,” stop listening. They’re living in a dream world and not dealing with reality.

Our well-educated seers who used to write and lecture about the “new world” and fed our fascination about the future aren’t as visible these days. Many of their former tomes didn’t come to pass. COVID - among a host of other things - hit us like a speeding truck. Scientific and other “tomorrow anomalies” came at us from new directions. The speed - the energy - the unaccounted for - all got mixed up with a little virus - a little bug - that has swept us in unseen directions and with unseen consequences.

You want permanence? Sorry, my friend, we’re fresh out. And, a new “supply” isn’t expected.