Thursday, June 12, 2014

Does anyone wonder about the lives of old people?

I read this poem as I was catching up on what some of my friends are doing on Facebook (where, you know, I no longer post but I still read what other people say occasionally) and this caught my eye.  Our country has such a different outlook on our elder people - they're a nuisance, they're expensive to provide care for...but do we ever stop to wonder what kind of life they've led?

While living in Okinawa, I met a few ladies who were quite old. Most of them got around better than some 40-year-olds I know, yet were in their 70s! One particular lady, Chieko, was able to tell us stories of having been a small girl when the Americans invaded Okinawa during World War II. She told of hiding in a cave with all of the other women and children from her village and how, once the fighting stopped, her grandmother went out to meet the Americans. You see, the Japanese military had told the villagers not to ever let themselves be caught because the enemy would rape the women and then kill them all. Chieko's grandmother volunteered to go out and meet this enemy who was guaranteed to rape and kill her because, as she told her granddaughter, "I am an old woman", meaning her life had been led and she was ok with possibly sacrificing herself to protect the rest of those in the cave.

Of course, that isn't what happened. The grandmother came back a few days later with friendly Americans, and brought everyone out of the cave. Chieko eventually grew up and married a man who she met while he was stationed in Okinawa while serving in the US Navy. When I met her, she was close to celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary with him.

All of this I learned because I asked a question - what was it like growing up in Okinawa?

Behind every old, weathered, beautiful face there is a story of love, happiness, sadness, tragedy, and triumph. It's such a shame we don't ask to hear those stories more often.

The following is the story I saw on Facebook today:

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

No Redeeming Qualities

It has been one year since we left Japan.  Technically tomorrow is the anniversary of our arrival here, but by this time last year we had already boarded a plane out of the country we had called home for nearly two years. I wish I could say that our first year at Edwards AFB has been as great as Okinawa was, but I just can't.  As my husband says (repeatedly) every time he drives the long drive out to the base that we are forced to live on, "this place has absolutely no redeeming qualities."

No redeeming qualities.

I will say that we have met some incredible people here, but considering the fact that the majority of them hate it here as well, I don't count that as a redeeming quality. Those poor souls are just our prison mates in Hell.

And yes, I do consider this place Hell.  Consider these facts:

  • because of my husband's position, we are forced to live on base.
  • there is very little to choose from - especially of a healthy nature - for dining out on base.
  • the gym is closed on weekends, as are many of the fast food restaurants.
  • unlike any other base we have ever been to, there is no theater on the base.
  • the commissary and base exchange here are, at best, mediocre - small, with a pathetic choice of products.  More often than not, you have to travel to some other town to get what you need.
  • the base is 35 miles from Palmdale, 25 miles from Lancaster, and 15 miles from Rosamond.
Keep this in mind - if Palmdale is the arsehole of California (which many, MANY people who don't live here by choice would agree), then Lancaster is a bruise on the arse of California, and Rosamond is a pimple on the bruise on the arse.  All three places just suck.  But back to the list.

  • the overall "culture" of the Antelope Valley, which encompasses the three aforementioned cities, can only be described as life in slow motion. I've never lived anywhere so laid back in terms of arriving on time, providing timely service, or even just verbally responding in a reasonable amount of time!  No lie, I have asked questions of people before and had them stare at me, mouth agape, for a full ten seconds before even blinking, let alone providing a verbal response!  I just don't understand.
  • in order to get to anywhere of any real interest, you have to drive at least an hour. I ordered a new car for myself while still in Japan. When I took possession of it on June 10th, 2013 it had 7 miles on the odometer. It is June 2nd and it now has 19,000 miles on it. I have never driven so many miles in one year in my life.
  • and finally there is the weather.  Dry, dry, dry and more DRY, with wind almost daily.  Not just a light breeze; I'm talking 25 mph wind with gusts up to 35 mph.  So even when the weather is seemingly nice, you walk outside and are covered in a layer of dust in minutes.  Don't even think about opening windows in your house unless you want to spend an entire day dusting.
So redeeming qualities. I know people who have been stuck here for years, and all I can think is that they must have angered the gods in a BIG way in a past life to be punished so. We have a few weeks left before we will finally be paroled from our sentence at Edwards AFB, and it can't come soon enough.