“Letting” others be responsible…

Spring begins on the 20th — next Tuesday — and it cannot be soon enough for me.  Not that we’ve had a hard winter, because we haven’t; but about 15℉ warmer in the daytime, and I’m heading back out on the track.  Now, lest I sound too ambitious, please remember that my high distance for last year was 1/2 mile, with 3 stops.  That is really good, for me, and if I can walk half as far, with twice as many stops, on the first day, I’ll be jumping for joy!!

Around here, spring is daffodils and tulips, hyacinth, and lovely lilacs, my very favorite flower in the whole world.  Fruit tree blossoms, and lovely green leaves, and grass — I love grass, and the smell of grass being cut.  Someone gave me an idea a year or so ago, but I never followed up.  This fall, I will plant a big flat pot of grass, and keep it in the window all winter.  Whenever I need that little lift — out come the scissors for a little “lawn” cut, and the house will smell like spring!

But the reason I am writing is not my excitement about spring being here.  It’s about the reactions I’ve gotten from some of the ladies here in the building.  Most of them, actually, over the age of 70.  Any word about spring is immediately answered with one of these or the like:

  • We are going to have so many bugs this year — black flies and no-see-‘ums, and mosquitos, and deer flies, and house flies and horse flies…it’s been so warm.  (Frown)

or

  • It’ll probably snow like crazy in April, and we won’t see any of those flowers for months.  (Frown)

or

  • I hate spring, because that means summer is coming, and it’s always so hot.  (Another lady)  Hot, I’ll say.  It’s going to be brutal this year.  (and a chorus of yeahs and yesses.) (and frowns.)

I feel perfectly comfortable writing this, because I have said those exact same words, myself, in conversations with the same people, in earlier years here when I was so depressed.  Residents tell me this used to be an overall cheerful place to live — picnics and birthdays and BINGO, and holiday meals together.  85% of that cheer has leaked away in the last decade or so, as everyone ages, and replacement residents are younger and have diagnoses of alcoholism, or PTSD, and other conditions some of these older residents don’t understand or even believe.  The elderly of this building feel terribly displaced, and put upon, and who could blame them?

Today’s conversation:  We have a resident, about 60, who has diabetes, and has lost a leg.  She is also an alcoholic, and during the first 15 days of the month, she drinks.  She cannot afford to, the rest of the month.  The ladies are very kind and friendly to her, in the second 15 days, but in the first half of the month, they make her the topic of disapproving gossip every time two or more of them meet together.  Someone said something today about how this woman had been drinking yesterday, and another resident spoke right up and said that she should not receive disability payments, because she didn’t spend them “the right way.”  I spoke up, [trouble for me!] and asked if I spent my entire disability check on apple turnovers, or canned whipped cream, or any other of my awful sugar addictions, would they say the same about me?

“Oh, of course not — that’s food.  Besides, you don’t have everything the government has given her:  a cart to ride around in, or [some other service I can’t remember.”]  “Yes, and the government did pay for her leg.”  [WHAT?  Did I really hear that? Do these women actually believe that an appropriate “punishment” for alcoholism is to deny someone an artificial leg?]

She continued, “They wouldn’t have bought her a leg in Massachusetts, at least not a good one.  Do you know, they, [I assume she meant someone in Massachusetts,] just drop their people off in Portland at a parking lot, and make us take care of them.”  [By this time, I’m covering my mouth, so as not to blurt something out.]  I mean, if this woman can do whatever she wants, as I assert she certainly can and should, then these other women can believe, say, think, gossip, pass along any piece of information they want, as well.  It’s no more my place to try and stop them from being mean than it is to stop the first woman from drinking.

This only being responsible for my own actions, and asking everyone else to be responsible for theirs, is sometimes a very hard thing to do.

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6 responses to ““Letting” others be responsible…

  1. No matter what their age, folks can be mean and judgmental. They can always see the fault in someone else. They can always see how someone else is using the system. What they have trouble seeing is what they, themselves, might be receiving benefit-wise that someone else is paying for: Medicare, subsidized housing, commodities, help on their heating bills through LIHEAP, etc. For some folks it’s easier to see your neighbor as an outsider who is using the system, than it is to see them as your brighter or sister—or possibly, themselves, given the right set of circumstances.

    Save your breath: there’s no arguing with some folks.

    • So true, My friend! And who am I to tell them they can’t bitch and moan. I think my solution was probably the right one, get up and walk away. Thanks for your assurances — they mean a lot!

  2. As a northern New Englander myself I am very familiar with the attitudes of the older women around you. Lapsing into judgmental thinking is second nature to me but I try to resist that tendency. There was a time, not so long ago, in my state where each town had an ‘Overseer of the Poor’ who decided who did or did not deserve assistance.

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