Monday, June 24

We are more than relevant, we are indispensable

I was watching Saturday Night Live recently, enjoying the skits, when the host introduced the evening’s musical guest, Young Thug. I listened, moved closer to the set and listened more intently. This was music?

What had I missed along the way from Dick Haymes to Sam Cooke to the Beatles? Evidently, I went deaf after Whitney Houston. Lollapalooza comes to Chicago, and I know about two or three of the acts and ninety-seven are from Mars. Playboi Carti? Modest Mouse? I’m about as relevant as a party-line, wall-mounted, rotary telephone. 

But then I get to thinking. My parents, who shimmied to “Minnie the Moocher” and smooched to “The Way You Look Tonight,” must have thought I was lobotomized when I wore out the linoleum to “Twisting the Night Away.” (Let me explain, Mom, “Chickinslacks” means a girl wearing men’s pants!) 

The music of the times, the clothing styles (bring back zoot suits!), the slang, the head spinning changes in what’s PC or taboo, they measure the zeitgeist of a generation; hep to the jive in the forties, morphing to hip in the late fifties (The jive is hip, don’t say hep, Keep cool fool, like a fish in the pool, That’s the golden rule at the Hipster school). Do you dig? It’s dope, bruh, not being salty, couldn’t be more Gucci.

So yes, fitting in with your peers and familiarity with the behavior and customs of the times are examples of being relevant. And in that sense, we old timers may find ourselves unable to stay abreast of the tone and flavors of our rapidly changing contemporary lifestyle. But in the roles we play in traditional societal relationships, there is a case to be made we are more relevant than ever before!

On one end of the lifeline the nurturing neighbors have moved; both parents work, Rdblox has replaced tag in the schoolyard, the debating team and chess club are trivia references on Snapchat. On the other end, empty nests are lonely places, being retired is an early bedtime and it’s probably a good idea not to drive at night.

How cherished the arms of a loving grandmother when a toddler skins her knees. How treasured the memory of granddad taking his Little Leaguer to a Cubs game. How valued the advice of a seasoned executive, the instruction of an expert carpenter. How appreciated the letter of encouragement tucked in the suitcase of the college freshman. How much-loved the elder who gives the invocation at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Often, in today’s chaotic world, children’s’ views of what constitutes a healthy, normal relationship are shaped by their grandparents, who also provide a link to family history and cultural heritage. Frequently, when kids need someone to share their problems with, it’s grandma and grandpa who offer the warm lap. For many families, grandparents are an affordable childcare option. How more relevant can you be!

Notice how some seniors look elderly and have an “old attitude” while others of the same age look twenty years younger and are aging gracefully? An attitude of gratitude makes the difference. Here’s a motto to adapt: “Want what you have; accept what is.”

Healthy aging role models retire from their jobs but stay engaged with life. They take a proactive stance on healthcare, practice preventative care and advocate for themselves. They have a purpose in life, to be of service. You don’t have to emulate Mother Teresa. Find purpose by doing what you find meaningful: volunteering, community activities, traveling, learning new things or nurturing your family. You’ll feel useful, valuable, and fulfilled. How more relevant can you be!

As the kids on Tik Tok might say, “no cap,” as in no lie, it’s totally true.

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