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Past, Present and Future

Story ID:3494
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Chicago IL USA
Year:1990
Person:Alfred Julien
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Past, Present and Future





Past, Present and Future
By Nancy Julien Kopp

My dad told great stories. It took very little to trigger a family memory, and heíd relate a tale from long ago regarding an aunt or a grandparent or himself. As he told how afraid heíd been when something bumped on the outhouse door in his childhood, Dadís face would light up, and his eyes would sparkle. Heíd draw the story out, adding details as he went along, almost as though he didnít want to reach the end. We heard how the bumping made his heart turn over and how he sat in the outhouse shaking. ďWhat could it be?Ē heíd ask. The bump turned out to be a dairy cow that finally butted her head hard enough to open the door and meet our dad nose to nose. His frightened yowl scared her away.

One day he started to tell a story about his grandmother. I watched his gnarled hands work expressively and the way he leaned forward in his chair as he talked. Iíd heard the story multiple times. I listened, although not very patiently, when a thought struck like thunder in a summer storm. Old people live in the past because they donít like the present and they fear the future. Maybe the past wasnít the best, but they know what happened then, and itís a safe haven.

Perhaps the past provides a more secure spot because many older people arenít especially happy with life right now, and they await a future that holds only mysteries and promotes anxiety. Why not retreat into the safety of days gone by?

As we age, our once-strong bodies begin to betray us. Why is it so difficult to get up from a chair after sitting for a long time? Why has our energy level dropped so many points? Why do knees ache so often? Now that Iím approaching seventy, I donít like that part of the present, and Iím willing to bet that few seniors do.

Iím definitely a tad fearful of the unknown future. I donít want to be a burden to my spouse or my children or to consider the fact that I may need help in my home and perhaps even move to an assisted living facilityómaybe even a skilled care center.

So what is a twenty-first century senior to do? Iím not about to give up my past. Iím a storyteller just like my dad. I find joy in reliving some of my experiences and thinking about people who are no longer in my life. But I try to keep it to a minimum. I know that what occurs today is more important, so I do all I can to cultivate a good present, weaving in only a little of the past. I accept some of my limitations and work hard to change others.

I pursue an active social life because I love being around people, plus itís good for me to have social stimulation. Too often seniors begin to cut back on their social life, little by little, until they suddenly find themselves alone a majority of the time.

Thereís not a whole lot of control with the future, but I hope Iíve planned for it financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Iíll cross each bridge as it appears in the best way I can at the time. My family will support me, Iím sure, and together, we can probably handle it pretty well. And if I can no longer be in charge, Iíll try to accept help in whatever form it takes.

I believe it all comes down to having the right attitude. Preserve the past, enjoy the present and meet the future one day at a time

Note: A slightly different version of this essay was published in MedHunters Journal January 2008