Essay: Acting the Elder

Sep 11, 2020

A group of young people is gathered in my back yard for a potluck supper.  One by one and two by two, I talk with the guests. 

One couple tells me about their honeymoon, a backpacking trip to Europe.  “Madrid was the best,” the husband says.  “We saw an exhibit of Picasso and it was awesome.”

I ask about career plans and his wife says she is undecided.  “I’m studying economics and sports medicine,” she says. 

Another young man says, “Someday I might open my own restaurant.”  And he demonstrates by making sushi at my picnic table.  I feel energized by all the energy in this group.

“I love their sense of adventure and possibility,” I tell my husband later while we’re washing dishes.

“But did anybody ask about you?” he says. 

“No,” I say, “but I don’t mind.”  I think how at this stage of my life, I’m not center stage—and don’t need to be.  I had my turn and now I’m happy to be in the audience. 

Looking back, I can see the young woman who talked so much about her life and never asked her listeners about theirs, all those parents and grandparents, in-laws and elders. 

It’s too late to thank most of them.  Instead, I have become the listener.