When I still lived at home with my parents I went to see my grandparents often. After I moved away from my hometown I made it a point to call my grandparents at least weekly.
This was when long-distance phone calls could cost as much as a few dollars a minute.
I never thought much about it until one day one of my grandmothers abruptly said something during one of our conversations that caught me completely off guard.
“You know you’re the only grandchild who regularly calls to check on me, don’t you?” she said.
“No, ma’am, I didn’t know that,” I responded.
It made me feel both terrible and sad. Because I knew that my other relatives loved her as much as I did. I knew that they had their own lives and that the time requirements of raising children and handling honey-do lists was time consuming.
I had all of those myself. But I checked on my grandparents to make sure they were OK, didn’t need anything and knew I was there for them as they had always been there for me.
The column you’re reading now appears in multiple newspapers and other publications. I get a lot correspondence from readers in the form of emails and letters.
Recently, I wrote a column about the price of losing a pet. It generated a lot of responses. But one in particular led to the topic of today’s column. I’d like to share part of what I received from a lady who read the pet column and sent me an email with the following. I’m omitting her name and location.
“I’m a pet owner, a Scottie, and I’ve gone thru several losses in my lifetime. I’m 75. It’s really devastating to lose your pet, esp. when they’re your companion as mine is to me since I live alone. Sometimes I can rely on my pet rather than another person. Us elderly have comfort in their pets since family members don’t visit very much. People don’t realize we enjoy visits. Sometime we feel pushed aside so we rely on our pets. I’m a member of the “Scottie Rocks” on Facebook. I keep in touch with my fellow Scottie family members. Also we send our condolences to the fellow members who lose their pets. They go to the Rainbow Bridge. You are so good to put the article out, thanks.”
I almost cried when I read this.
“Sometimes we feel pushed aside so we rely on our pets.”
Read that sentence two or three times to yourself.
Folks, as a society, we are failing the very people who made us who we are today — the elderly.
There is a cycle to our lives. We go to school, enter the workforce, raise families and retire.
But retirement shouldn’t mean being put out to pasture.
I watch people walking around with their heads buried in their cellphones. If they took 20 minutes of that time to use that same phone to call and check on an elderly member of their family, an older member of their church or, better yet, get in the car and drive by for a cup of coffee at their home, what a difference we would make.
I’ve read many times that the elderly have a high rate of depression. No wonder. It’s partially our fault. Once they’ve done for us what we needed, we go on with our lives and pay little attention to them or their needs.
Sure, we may see them at Thanksgiving or bring them something for Christmas, but often we put little thought into the gift and it’s something they either don’t need or can’t use.
What they need and want is you and me.
It broke my heart to read what that lady had written about relying on a Facebook page for human connection. Not that there’s anything wrong with being in that group. I can see how that is a good thing.
But she was quite clear that she felt tossed aside by those for whom she cares most.
Life is but a blip on the timeline of all existence. We may think that what we’re in the midst of doing at any given moment is the most important thing. But, what should matter to all of us, and be given a high priority, are the individuals who love us and made sure we got to where we are today.
We should be overwhelming the elderly with calls and visits and helping them with chores — just for starters.
Because one day, God willing, you’ll be elderly, too.
John’s book, “Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now,” and his new book, “Write of Passage Volume II,” are available on Amazon and on John’s website at www.TheCountryWriter.com .