Old Dogs

Last night, I finished reading Years are So Long by Josephine Lawrence.  I think the best way to summarize this book is with an old familiar phrase:  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

The story, about a penniless elderly couple who find themselves homeless, was sad to me in many ways.  The couple have five grown children; none of whom want to support Mom and Pop in their old age.  From a historic perspective, and considering this book was written in the early 30’s, it is difficult to believe the story because the children are so disconnected from their parents.  The book predates Social Security which was enacted not long afterward in the late 30’s. That partially explains some of the reasons the couple are in their current financial situation.  They never put money aside for their retirement years and the government didn’t have anything in place to help them at the time.

The author made me think of so many different aspects of my own life.  I thought of my grandparents, my parents, my children.  I am someone who has not yet been able to put money aside for a rainy day or retirement.  Much like Mr. and Mrs. Cooper in the story, I’ve been busy raising my kids; putting them first with what little I had to do so.  Considering what my income has been, I am proud of what I have accomplished.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were independent people who never needed to live with their children in order to survive.  My late father’s immediate family included two sisters who lived with in their parent’s house long after they themselves married and each had a child.  So again, the question of taking care of elderly parents never played into my parents lives.

I wonder now if it will ever become an issue in my own life.  My remarried mother lives a fairly comfortable life.  If the need arose, I imagine I would help her in any way I could.  Would I want to live with her as the characters in the book?  I’m not sure.  I think it might be very difficult.

This brings me to thoughts on my old age.  I can’t imagine the thought of being financially dependent on my children.  They have lived under my roof, but never the other way around.  I would hate to intrude on their lives and hope to retain my independence for the remainder of my life.  In the book, the Cooper’s believe their children “owe” them because they raised them and gave what little they had to them when they were growing up.  I don’t feel this way about my children.  Years ago, I went to a seminar about child rearing and I often remember the presenter saying that we raise our children, teaching them to walk in order that they might walk to us and then beyond us.  I believe this is true and have thought of this often when I have had a difficult time letting go.

There have been times in my life when I needed my children’s help and they always stood by me and helped me in more ways than I can count.  For that I am grateful.

If you have a chance to read this book, I would be interested in knowing what you think of it.  As I began reading the book, I felt sorry for the parents, such pathetic people, but by the end of the book, I almost felt sorry for their selfish, self-serving children.  Change is never easy and most people fight against it.  The older you get, the more comfortable old habits become. This is clearly evident in the attitudes of the characters, both young and old.

I come away from this book with a sense of sadness and with a renewed sense of the importance of future planning and personal growth.  I never want to be an unwanted burden to anyone.

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About dianeledet

Professional Writing Consultant, Graduate of DePaul University School for New Learning 2008
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