AN EVENING WITH A VOLUNTEER SOCIAL WORKER
Thursday night I attended a dinner party of friends. We were tied together with a special interest. Close scrutiny would have revealed nothing more than the obvious: we were definitely not members of a particular age group. There were about 3 dozen people, several sales people, a nurse, a doctor. a lawyer (make that two lawyers), several business owners, an architect of world renown and I the oldest guy there (I thought) was starting a new career. Our common bond? We are all published authors.
As the festivities began there was a request for announcements. The lawyer (the one who entered my mind as an after-thought) said “Yes, I’d like to announce that yesterday I celebrated my eightieth birthday.”
I was stunned. Not because h of the large number of years but because in the 36 years that I’d known Phil I had never wondered about his age. As I thought about it I couldn’t remember any of the hundreds of people, perhaps thousands I had known who shared our common interest, whose age I had been curious about. And then it hit me. Damn, I’m seventy three years of age; am I supposed to be dying or something?
Many of the successful people I know (they are many) are old by normal standards; most are still practicing their life’s work, building and selling homes, running corporations, performing surgeries, one guy plays piano at a piano bar in between gigs as a symphony conductor. The only retired guy I know cares for injured birds one day a week, teaches photography another and reads to preschoolers yet another. He and I are both volunteer broadcasters. And one guy ran for president of the United States of America. He was nearly seventy. Yet another friend is nearly eighty.
And, as I think about it I’m beginning to believe that we plan our health, our lessening of it and our eventual demise as we plot out our careers. I do not know a single soul who ever planned to retire. I know that there are people out there who think that way and it makes me very sad. Those people are the ones I meet in the nursing homes.
I am a volunteer social worker.