As I sit near the Park Cafe on the indoor pool deck aboard Grandeur of the Seas, I can’t help but overhear conversations. It mystifies me why the topic of conversation among geezers is always about health problems: Medicare, what medicines they take, hip replacements, knee replacements, aches, pains. The conversations are downright depressing. This cruise is almost all geezers and it seems unnatural to me. There are no young people aboard; no children. It’s God’s waiting room on the water.
Not since high school have I been in groups segregated by age. I’ve had the good fortune in my career to always be surrounded by young people–elementary kids, college undergraduate and graduate students who exude joy and optimism about life. There’s an eagerness about them. They look for the fun in everything they do. Happiness abounds. The elderly seem to focus more on what’s wrong than what’s right.
I have had the privilege of knowing a few people who have lived into their nineties in relatively good health. What distinguished these folks in my mind was their optimism about everything. Without exception, their entire lives were characterized by a positive outlook on life enjoying each day to its fullest. They each always looked for the good in people and rarely if ever spread gossip. Unless asked very direct questions, they never spoke about health issues to anyone but their closest family members and then only with a purpose.
The 90-year olds I’ve known were among the “young old” as Mary Pipher would say in her book Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders. These are folks whose chronological age may be considered old but they are still young at heart and optimistic regardless of their years. Age is in large part a state of mind.
At 65, I reflect back on my career. I believe I’ve had a positive impact on the lives of the many children I had as an elementary teacher. I’ve touched the lives of untold numbers of undergraduate and graduate students as a university professor. I am grateful for those opportunities. And through it all, I still see myself as that 16 to 18 year old in high school, optimistic and hopeful with a joy for life. My 10th grade English teacher once told me, shaking her finger at me in front of the class, “Melnick, you think this life is all one big joke but you’ll find out later it’s not all peaches and cream.” I guess the joke’s on her.
Peaches and cream abound if only you look for them.