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Fit for Life: Grateful or Cynical

Saturday, December 08, 2018


When you spend time with an elderly person you get a lot of insight on life on many levels.

Some are old and wise, some are old fools.

Some will inspire you with funny stories, and fond memories, and others can bring you down with their crotchety old attitudes.

In any case, you can look at it from different lenses, and create your own judgment on whether it’s fun to visit someone of mature age or is it just a bout of misery.

We tend to make excuses for older people’s antics, out of respect for their age, however, there is a breaking point that we shouldn’t have to endure. The “well they’re old, so cut them a break” can only go so far for so long.

I want to clarify that I am not a villain that disrespects old people. For the most part, I get a kick out of listening to the “way things used to be”.

I have a 95-year-old grandmother that I visit EVERY Sunday, therefore, I have earned every right to write this article. I have endured years of verbal, and emotional abuse, and like a beaten dog, I still faithfully visit her, and love her unconditionally.

Even my father shakes his head at some of her antics, and in some cases, he gets aggravated with all the negative and downright mean comments she makes on any given Sunday.

I came home last weekend and was telling my girlfriend about my visit. She asked, “how was your grandmother”? and I replied, “mean as a box of vipers”. “Oh, I feel bad”, she said, “it must be tough getting older, maybe she’s sad?” That’s where I started my rant.

Why do we feel bad for someone that’s old?

Shouldn’t we admire the fact that someone survived this tough world for 95 years?  Wouldn’t you wake up every day and be grateful for the loooong life you have lived. Wouldn’t you be grateful and appreciate every day that you wake up? I personally would feel like I was lucky. Given the odds of survival, I would feel fortunate and way ahead of the game.

A common complaint is always the food.

Now get the idea of breaded mystery meat with brown gravy out of your head.

She lives in a place that serves lamb, salmon, prime rib, and fresh turkey as staples in her diet, yet every time I recite the menu, she turns up her nose and makes a remark. “I’m so sick of the food here” is the normal response.

When she lived at home, she would eat week old spaghetti, or a cup of dry Cheerios for dinner, yet she will always make a negative remark about the menu at her assisted living community. I would be happy having 3 meals of that caliber prepared for me daily.

Then when we bring her down to the dining room, we always ask the other women at her table how their lunch is, and wouldn’t you know, there is always something wrong with theirs too.

Another complaint is that she’s lonely.

They have activities all day every day, yet she chooses to stay in her room. “I don’t want to go hang around a bunch of old people” she says. (I am actually laughing while writing this). However, when she reluctantly goes to an event, she has a great time.

Finally, when we are about to leave, she says “Oh, always in a hurry. So glad you came by for 5 minutes”. Instead of realizing that she gets more visitors than almost everyone else, she criticizes the length of the visit.

Now, over the years, I have “edited” my relationship. I try to keep the time I spend with negative people in my life to a minimum. YES, that even includes family.

I show up 30 minutes before she goes down to lunch, so I can bring her down, give her a kiss, tell her I love her, and go on my way.

When the day comes that she isn’t around, I will miss her dearly, but I won’t have any regrets. I feel like I did the best that I could do and always tried to be a good grandson, despite the criticism and comments I have endured over the years.

The lesson here, is that you can always find something wrong with the world.

There will always be something to complain about. Whether you are young or old.

But on the flip side there is always something to be grateful for.

There is always something to appreciate. And there are always good things going on in our lives. We just need to make a choice as to where we are going to spend our energy.

It takes the same amount of energy to see the light than it does to see the darkness, and it’s our choice what we want to see.

It takes more energy to scowl, and feel bitter inside, that it takes to smile and seek happiness.

So even if you don’t make it to 95, look at what you have, and appreciate where you are. Life in general is short, so cherish the time you have, and spend it with the people that help enhance your life, not make you feel like you need to defend your actions.

Matt Espeut, GoLocal's Health & Lifestyle Contributor has been a personal trainer and health & fitnesss consultant for over 25 years. 


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