With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s been four years since my last gratitude luncheon. Oh, how I miss this day, feeling there was much more to be grateful for back then. We made it a tradition. One week before the holiday, clients, families, staff, and friends would all gather to enjoy a meal of gratitude. On our special day, before we ate, we always began with a prayer of appreciation. We were in a place we went to every day where we laughed, ate, and played together. And on this day, the universe seemed flawless, each with our imperfections.
The clients at our non-profit day center attended for a reason. They had dementia. Thinking about my time there and looking back, it was the last time I was around people who made the most sense.
Retiring from my job in 2020, I have not worked with individuals with dementia since. With time to reflect, after a forty-year career and now living in this world, I realize how much I miss my clients. They were my friends and my family and always the truth tellers. Without them in my life now, who can help answer these questions? Why can't we talk with one another? How do we repair the ridiculous?
Growing up with a Jewish mother, you learned to recognize and dodge the guilty comments. Imagine every mother who threw an uncomfortable statement out at their kid. Perhaps, they saw it as a rite of passage communicating to their child to get them to do something. Imagine every mother's comments in the mid to late 90s today. Would they be subject to the Facebook and TikTok police for public ridicule?
As young women in the early 70s, we took great offense to being called a girl by a man. It drew a stake through us. Well, it did for me. I was insulted when referred to as a girl. Implying I was less than others; that's how I heard and felt at the time. Back then, refusing to be called a label was a way to fight back. Changing attitudes and laws took a lot of time. Immediately I could speak up and let the person know I didn't care for the term. The irony, for now, is being called a girl would be a compliment, and a chick might make me blush. Aging has a way of making us look at things differently. Now I understand it was the apparent attitude of the person and not the word itself that angered me. Was I too sensitive? Possibly.
So how can we fix what has become so dark about our world? Listening to some people with a microphone talking about others makes me cringe. We react publicly by emotionally tarring and feathering our enemies on the internet in the blink of an eye. Have we abandoned the teachings of the golden rule, treating others as one wants to be treated?
Frankly speaking, how do we avoid completely sinking into the abyss? I have to return to the folks who made me feel safe and made the most sense in life.
First, my Jewish Mother was the kindest and most generous person. Guilt can crush a person, while for me, it kept me on my toes. Then there was my Dad, whose greatest gift taught us how to rise above envy and discontent in one’s circle. Always show support and remember you’re never owed anything from anyone. And last, to my friends, despite illness, they live each day with grace and empathy.
So for this Thanksgiving, I will attempt to find gratitude. I will search for places I might need to remember. Not on TV or in the news. Not on social media or at the local hangout where drinks are cheap while the conversation is loud and absurd. I’ll stick to listening to Arlo’s Alice’s Restaurant and look at photos of my family and friends at the center. I'll turn to a beautiful sunset in the afternoon and perhaps sneak in a prayer. Something sacred that takes us out of the abyss and transforms us into a place where adults are kinder to each other and still hold out for peace.
And yes, there’s always hope!!!!!
By Jill Modell-Dion the creator of Aging Creative and author of the soon to be released book, The Vacant Piano
Please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.