Posted in Ageism, Balance, Elder Issues, Family Issues, Teacher Issues

Relativity

RelativityIMG_3714

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?IMG_3803

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.”IMG_4277

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Wabi-Sabi, Ya’ll!

Simply stated, wabi-sabi refers to a Japanese world view that embraces and finds beauty in life’s imperfection and transience.  This kind of philosophy sums up how I feel about not accepting the world’s pressure to be perfect.  I’m a “cracked plate,”a failed ponytail, and a lopsided cake.  I don’t believe advertisers’ lies that say that beauty is defined by a woman’s slender hips and perfect make-up or a man’s thick hair and perfect pecs.   As Robert Herrick once observed in his poem “Delight in Disorder,”

“A careless shoe-string, in whose tiewabi sabi cup
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.”
Since I lead a sorta careless and crooked existence, I have the frequent urge to declare, “Wabi-Sabi!” in my daily life:
As I look at my backyard and notice that the weeds outnumber the blades of grass,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I hurriedly pull on tights just minutes before hurrying to a dress-required affair and I notice a thigh-high hole,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I’m handing out the semester exam I spent 3 hours and 17 minutes typing using the “hunt & peck” finger method and I see that the word “How” is typed twice on the last question on page 2,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I lovingly hold my momma’s favorite coffee cup with the small chip on its floral base,
Wabi-Sabi!
Mess-ups and crack-ups and even fuck-ups do not a disaster make!
That deep scratch on the right back corner of Grandma’s antique end table does not diminish its beauty or value. That scratch is where my  younger sister suddenly dropped a brass bud vase when she had a grab a watch battery from  my one-year-old niece’s little fist on its way to her mouth one Christmas Eve.
When I practice acceptance over perfection, I am so much more in tune with this very messy life.
Wabi-Sabi, Ya’ll!
wabi sabi sign