This column and what I want to say does not apply to all elderly people. Some are very old school and can find some things we call entertainment very offensive and some old folks do need some extra TLC because they are a bit more feeble than others, however I think this speaks of most of the elderly in general.
When I was growing up my Grandmother adopted and raised me. She gave me 3 very special gifts. A life that I wouldn’t have had, a love of reading and she took me to lots of movies where I could get lost in a fantasy world for a couple hours at the time. We only ever had one real disagreement about a movie. In 1976 I saw the ads for “Carrie” and saw that photo of Sissy Spacek covered in blood. I had to see this movie. My Grandmother saw the ads for “Carrie” and saw that photo of Sissy Spacek covered in blood and knew we were not going to see this movie. We went to war about it and I lost. It was the one and only time she refused to take me to see a particular movie of my choice.
We went around for weeks about this movie and I took more than one spanking with the horrendous fits I would throw. Mind you, neither one of us had any idea what the movie was even about at the time. We had this a photo to tell us all we knew. When we got our first VCR the first movie I bought was “Carrie” (I had seen the movie by this time on television in its edited form but had fallen in love with it) and I sat down and watched it with Grandma. When the movie was over, and God help me I could have died, Grandma looks at me with a smile and says in a very sincere manner “I really liked that, I wish we had seen it at the movies.” I know I looked like one of those cartoon characters whose jaw hits the floor, eyes bug out and then they fall apart. Apparently my expression was very funny and she really started laughing when I looked at her and said “You want to die today, don’t you?” We both started really laughing and she admitted she thought it was a different kind of movie when she said no a few years earlier. It is a much loved film for both of us now and I can’t wait for her to see the new version.
As I got older Grandma started going to fewer movies with me although I told her she would go see ‘The Color Purple” with me if I had to hogtie and drag her kicking and screaming. I think that may have been the last movie we went to see in the theater together (but mind you she loved it).
I began renting movies I had seen in the theater and would bring them to Grandma if I thought she would enjoy them. She loved not having to get dressed up and leave the house to see a movie. My bringing a movie and a pizza over were a win/win for her and to this day, even when I go to Georgia (where she now lives) I take at least one movie for us to watch together. Now what this column is actually about begins while Grandma was still here in Florida.
Once upon a time a movie called “Showgirls” came out and was rated NC-17 with very good reason. I think I saw it in the theater 24 times. I loved this campy over the top movie. When it came out on video I rented it to watch with Grandma and she loved it. I told several people (at different times) we had watched it and they all (each and every one) looked at me appalled and horrified and said “You showed your Grandmother “Showgirls”?!?!?!?!?! Well yes. She is older not dead. And I am sure there is nothing they showed in this movie that she wasn’t aware of and it got me thinking how we tend to treat parents and grandparents as they progress in age. For some reason we start giving them the qualities of a child and without meaning to may treat them as such.
You see it all the time and probably do it yourself. When they get in the car to ride with us we make sure they have their seat belts on. We do they soccer mom save if we have to suddenly stop. We sit in restaurants with these relatives and go over the menu with them trying to help them find what they want to eat. (Hint: If they can read they can probably figure out what they want to eat without your help) We get careful about what television shows or movies we watch around them keeping in mind not to offend their fragile nature, mind you they have smoked, drank, partied in their days of youth and yes, they even had sex (if they had not you would not be here reading this) and some of them where wilder in younger days than we were. We ask them stupid questions “Are you cold?” “Do you need something to eat?” “Are you getting tired?” (This question can come when you are out doing something or when it is getting later in the evening) They will tell you if they are cold , they will get themselves something to eat if they are hungry and if they are tired they will tell you on their own or simply rest or go to sleep (some napping in their comfy chair). They don’t need us to ask these things although we do. Why? Because we love them and feel it is our turn to care for them. It is funny how the roles reverse as we all get older. Another bad habit, and this is a bad one, is trying to stop them from doing things that you think are now suddenly dangerous or to much for them to do….unless of course you have an 85 year old Grandma that likes to pop wheelies on a Harley. There might be some room for concern there. First you are going to hurt their feelings and some will complain that you are treating them like a child and won’t let them do anything they want (sounds like us in our kid and teen years doesn’t it?) The fact is though that they are adults. They helped raise us to be the adults we are today and that is truly a gift. We should not give it back too soon. I want you to look at this picture of my Grandmother.
My Grandma loves watching movies. She loves “Carrie”, “Showgirls”, “Kill Bill”, “Original Sin”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Mandingo” “Valley of the Dolls”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “American Pie” (the unrated version) to name a few. Her television watching has included “Sex and the City” and “Oz’. She loves reading the fiction of Jackie Collins (the Lucky series being her favorite and (sometimes) Stephen King (Rose Madder and Cujo come in on that list) and has read my copy of the erotic novel “Emmanuelle” and liked it. She thinks the comics in Hustler are funny as hell. As a teen I had a subscription to the now defunct Hustler Humor which was nothing but comics and jokes and she would usually open them to glance through before I got home. She loved drinking frozen drinks when we were on vacation or at a big gathering like a wedding. She can have a potty mouth that makes her incredibly funny because you never know when she will shoot it off. A bit of info: She will tell you what she is thinking exactly the way she is thinking it. On one occasion, at the dinner table at a family gathering, she referred to someone (a relative who shall remain nameless) as “fuck-face.” Everyone spit food and burst out in hysterical laughter. We held our sides and laughed until we cried. She wants to get out and work in the yard and babysit her great grandchildren, she wants to go shopping and out for a hamburger. She still loves her pizza and is addicted to honey buns. She does get cold some of the time and simply puts on a sweater or a blanket on her legs. She has had a conversation about her sex life (with my aunt) in front of me (although I wish she had not, she is my Grandmother after all, and I can say after this conversation that I am sorry that her first husband was a lousy lay, she is a giving a loving woman and deserved better. I am glad her 2nd marriage was bliss) What I am trying to get across as my point is this. Each older person is different and the way we treat them should be based on the individual, not the concept we have of what old people are suppose to be. Keep in mind that we are all headed there and I sure as don’t want to be treated like a 6 to 10 year old. I want to be respected, loved and cherished but at all times treated as an adult and an equal, not someone to be watched over. That is just some food for thought and some of my musings. I hope you had fun with it. Now take those parents and/or grandparents and give them a big hug.