Have you ever considered the components of loneliness? We are getting a chance to do that during this COVID situation. My wife and I have had a lot of time to sit on the couch together over the last few weeks, since we do not go much of anywhere. We do not talk a huge amount, since we have already had 47 years to tell each other what we think. But, even though I am a slow learner, I trust that one thing I have learned from married life is that husbands need to listen to wives if we want to sail a smooth sea.
One of the tragic ironies of the current emergency is that the restrictions most necessary to the medical health of the elderly are among the most damaging to their mental and emotional health. Old folks need to have interaction with younger people; but even if they wanted to these days, their socializing is severely restricted.
As we grow older, we know things that younger people will never know. The problem is that much of the time they simply do not care about those things. And I have been very guilty of that. For example, it has not been so many years since I knew men who were veterans of World War I. My wife’s grandfather was a member of one of the earliest units of the Army Air Force. He would have been a wealth of information about a unique era in U.S. military history. However, I never took time to sit down with him and let him talk about those days.
My sister-in-law’s grandfather served in The Great War and somewhere in the family they are supposed to have a recording that he made about his experiences. He said that Europe “looked like a plowed field.” In other words, the movie “Sergeant York” portrayed the scenery pretty well. Now those men are gone and we can never ask them those questions that we neglected to pose while they were living.
Old folks necessarily know things from firsthand experience that younger people cannot know. It is just the way of life. For example, as I have told my sons, they cannot imagine just how dominant the UCLA basketball teams were during the 1960s when Lew Alcindor was playing. And imagine the electricity that must have been in the baseball parks back in the days when Babe Ruth was playing! I never saw the Babe, but did I mention that I once saw Henry Aaron hit a homerun when he was chasing the Babe’s record? Honest. We were on a trip to Atlanta and it was the first major league game I ever saw in person.
But getting back to the current COVID isolation. Why not take a minute today to call your older relatives and visit for a few minutes about their memories? Listening to someone is one of the easiest ways you can say, “You are important. Your memories are relevant.” After all, one of these days you will be old too.
Irrelevance is a devastating component of loneliness. The feeling that “I do not matter” can destroy our peace of mind. The good news is that it is one of the easiest parts of loneliness to prevent. Just listen to that person’s memories.