There are 74-year-old women waiting tables so I can’t complain. What I’m doing doesn’t involve carrying omelets for four on a giant round tray above my head or sorting out who wanted rye toast and who wanted a raisin bagel, toasted dark, light smear. I email and write things and have meetings, plot and scheme, and otherwise replicate the life I had before I retired. Except I don’t get paid. Which is, if you want to know, the complete and utter glory of it all. I don’t work for anybody. This, oddly, makes work luscious. I liked working pretty much when I did get paid but having this extra bonus of complete freedom in what I’m doing makes it dreamy.
Watching me at line dancing class and seeing the cochlear implant on my head prompted a very nice woman to ask me if I could hear. Yes, I can hear, I smiled, wanting to tell her that my hearing disability was not to blame for my right/left foot confusion or for turning in the wrong direction, somehow taking a reverse cue on every move. The almost completely African American crowd of women kept an eye out for me, encouraging me with their eyes to watch their feet, and urging me at break time to not quit. At the end of the class, a woman stepped up for a call and response. Thank you, God! Thank you for my feet! Thank you, God, I can move! and the twenty-five of us answered her calls, louder with each one. And then we put our coats on and left, somehow having become missionaries of dance and luck.
I ate this entire chocolate Christmas tree as payment for a hard day. Food will forever be linked to reward though I wasn’t raised that way. There were really no rewards because, after all, why should a person get rewarded for doing what they should? I scrapped that thinking as an adult and now work on a carefully developed ratio of effort to reward, the reward almost always involving chocolate or a trip to Goodwill. The chocolate Christmas tree looks small, but it was dense like an expensive chocolate Easter bunny, and I am already sorry I ate it. Such juvenile calculus.
The possessive is a subtle but powerful tool of marginalization. This came up in conversation with community leaders about “our seniors.” Other times, I’ve heard “our homeless.” And both times, the expressions were meant to convey regard and concern but, instead, at least for me, the message is one of paternalism, superiority, custodianship. Interestingly, when discussing this with my husband, he told me that he is reluctant to use the term “my wife” to identify me because he doesn’t like the possessive sound of it. I was struck and impressed by this – not that he would be progressive and egalitarian but that his sentiments would boil down to a phrase he probably uses every day with someone. I’ll need to talk to my wife about that.
I am brightened and heartened by young professionals. Let’s just say I’ve had occasion to encounter young medical professionals lately and it has been a very good thing. Competence and ease, intelligence and savvy. And this, perhaps the best, respect for people, acceptance, and a seamless kind of warmth. An instrumental version of compassion. Maybe a fluke, but I don’t think so. People coming up are taught different things than we were and I’m glad for that.