Nomadland is coming soon. I’ll give you a sneak preview of the film. When I picture Nomadland, I see Frances McDormand walking across a desolate land. It’s the same scene I see in the place I am now, the place I call Seniorland.
I qualify chronologically to live in Seniorland. I qualify functionally because I’m blind. In Seniorland, they are uniformly kind and caring. They talk about the grandkids. I don’t have grandkids. In Seniorland, they sound like my parents, not like my generation. Does this make me an ageist? Steeped in denial? Fixated at adolescence? If I seek differences rather than similarities to make me feel superior, then I practice a dangerous habit…unless I simply don’t care to have friends in Seniorland.
“People my age,” sings Neil Young, “they don’t do the things I do.” I bet I’m the only senior in Seniorland who plays Pink Floyd LOUD through speakers that cost more than my first car. I walk marathon distance each week. I weigh what I did in college. I don’t bake cookies. I don’t sound old. People tell me I don’t look old either. My friends say I don’t act my age and neither do they.
What I share with seniors is loss. My wife, my brother and my mother—within the year. Mortality stares me in the face and, though I don’t see it, it weighs on me. Is this how it will be from now on, loss upon loss? In Seniorland, they agonize over giving up their car keys. I gave up mine when I was 39. I’m 70 years old and I’ve lived half my life sighted and half my life blind and I say for a laugh, “Too bad the blind half’s the half I’m in now.” Then laughter stops. Long and tortuous is sight diminishing to the vanishing point.
Here’s what would help—if my wife or my brother or my mother were with me in Seniorland. But I can’t make my well-being conditional, especially with conditions that never will come true. And, in Seniorland, we learn how few conditions ever will come true.
So…where do we go from here? Seniorland is not longitude or latitude or altitude. It is attitude. It is a state of mind and a place in time. I see myself falling into step alongside Frances McDormand. I take her arm and she guides me through her land and my land. The desolation becomes promise. We are a part of, not apart from. We talk of prepositions, of getting through rather than getting over. We speak of surviving. We speak of planting seeds. We practice gratitude. We endorse optimism. We sing. We share a laugh. We invoke The Serenity Prayer. We choose to take pleasure in the mundane. We do what we need to do to keep moving forward.
[This blog came to life as I walked slowly up a steep incline on my treadmill. This playlist contains the songs I heard while climbing that stairway to…well, you know where…at 2.5 mph.]
“Driveby” by Neil Young with Crazy Horse, from the album “Sleeps with Angels” (1994)
“Heart” by Rockpile, from the album “Seconds of Pleasure” (1980)
“Holiday” by Weezer, from the album “Weezer (Blue Album)” (1994)
“I Found Love” by Lone Justice, from the album “This World Is Not My Home” (1998)
“I’m the Ocean” by Neil Young with Pearl Jam, from the album “Mirror Ball” (1995)
“Planet Telex” by Radiohead, from the album “The Bends” (1995)
“The Way That It Shows” by Richard Thompson, from the album “Mirror Blue” (1994)
“My Generation” by The Who, either the radio version or, ye gads!, the long version from the album “Live at Leeds” (1970)
“I Wanna Go Home” by Holly Beth Vincent, from the album “Holly & The Italians: The Right To Be Italian” (1981)
“Prom Theme” by Fountains of Wayne, from the album “Utopia Parkway” (1999)