A personal essay written by Alex Larson, my daughter, which she read aloud in class this week:
It is hard to be a human. We are born as vulnerable little nuggets, incapable of doing anything, and somehow we manage to grow and adapt into functioning beings. We are surrounded by death, poverty, crime, all of which can drive a person to misery. Yet somehow a lot of us manage.
If you were in my English class last year, you may have learned that I have an affinity for the elderly, and if you weren’t, you will quickly see. Some of my friends shy away from old people because they say they are mean or grumpy. Some even comment that they smell bad. To that I say, people of all ages can be bitter or have poor hygiene. But all of this is slightly irrelevant. I was never quite sure what attracted me to older folks, but thanks to Senior Thesis, I now have an idea.
I got to interview twelve residents at a retirement home; most were above the age of 85. The majority of their friends and family have died and they (obviously) live in a retirement home, which is depressing in and of itself. Many of them were hard of hearing, needed walkers, or could see only with thick glasses. You would think that if you lost all of your independence, that you would give up all hope, which does happen, but the group I talked to surprised me.
Every single individual I got the chance to speak with made it clear to me that they lived very happy lives. It is hard to grasp, as teenagers, that these people, were once our age. They probably hated school, had to find jobs, and fought with their friends. They have all been sick, yelled at someone, and cried. They grew up and watched the people they loved, their parents, their siblings, their spouses, all die. They lost their mobility and independence and were forced to move into a retirement home. It is inspiring that people can go through so much crap and still be completely satisfied with their lives.
I learned that I admire the elderly because they are able to get through all of the dreadful situations they encounter and are still, at ages nearing 90, able to tell their life stories with smiles on their faces. I can only hope, that if I am lucky enough to live that long, I will be able to sit down in my rocking chair with my knitting, and tell some little high school girl that I had a fantastic life.
[Thanks for letting me share this, Alex!]