by Ginger Keller Gannaway
While I was observing a student teacher last month, one kid in class stated, “I hate those old teachers,” and another voice added, “They shouldn’t let them keep teaching.” A kind kid noticed my old self in the back of the room and apologetically added, “Just the ones with grey hairs, ya know.”
I’ve been dying my hair for 12 years now.
Teens: so entertaining. So hip and quick and yet so slow. They have sharp radar for any kind of prejudice except ageism.
Of course, we over 60 folks are quick to judge as well:“My new doctor is 12!” “My grandson can only communicate with his phone!” “See those tattoos all over our waitress?”
Agism is relative.
My favorite part about teaching teenagers is their funny, honest spitfire comments:“Miss, ya got something green in your teeth.” or “Did the Civil War happen before or after you went to college?”
Our youth-obsessed culture may have persuaded me to dye my hair and update my 1970’s wardrobe; however, do I not now judge my 90-year-old dad who lives with us?
His grunts, sighs, belches, moans, and creaks annoy me almost as much as the messes he leaves in his bathroom. How does someone grunge-up the mirror, sink, countertop and floor just by brushing his teeth? But the worst part is the adult diaper crap. Seeing him shuffle to and from the bathroom in his pull-ups makes me dread my own scary future. It makes me want to hide out on a remote island alone where I rarely leave my bungalow to sit in my cozy backyard and listen to birds, watch squirrels, read a novel and forget I’m wearing Pampers.
Dad guilt consumes me when I complain. He’s trying to not annoy us. He apologizes when we spend 4 hours at the VA clinic. He’s learning to take the short bus to the senior center for bridge lessons, and each night he says, “Good night, sweet princess” before he goes off to bed.
Still the saying “We all turn into our parents” never sounded so ominous. I cringe and cry sometimes. And I warn my husband, “If my dad outlives you, I will kill you!”
I tell my head to stop judging Dad the way teens judge “those teachers with grey hair.” My heart thumps “Be patient. Be kind” but my bratty brain answers, “Damnit! His fresh sheets just got another poop smear down the middle.” I need to change my heart’s chant to, “Be real. Be strong’” because one day my 3 sons might say, “Damn! Mom tried covering her bald spot with a Magic Marker again.”