Come Together

April 23, 2020 § 35 Comments


Heashot of a white woman with grey and blond hair, head tilted to the side and smilingBy Kelly Thompson

I went and hugged my husband hard this morning. Long. We’ve been isolated, home, for 35 days.

He hugged back, hard.

“What was that about?” he asked.

I’m sixty-five. He’s sixty-nine.

“The world is acting like it’s going to lose us,” I said.

His smile was wry. As was mine.

Tender wry.

“Well, they’re losing us anyway,” he said.

“That’s true,” I laughed.

“Just not en masse, like this.”

The warnings to people over sixty have been repetitive and stern, especially early on. Now we see this affects us all. We will lose the young, too. Just not as many.

We decided to stay home before they told us to. We went to Costco and stocked up on canned goods, but left toilet paper for others. We’ve had groceries delivered and tipped two, three times as much. We are so fortunate we CAN stay home.

Bob Dylan just released a new song. Seventeen minutes long. “Murder Most Foul” centers around the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. I was nine years old. The lyrics are chilling:

Hush, little children, you’ll understand

The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand

Slide down the banister, go get your coat

Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat

There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags

Pick up the pieces and lower the flags

I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age

Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage

Put your head out the window, let the good times roll

There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll…

Exit song, I think, on the first listen. That’s our exit song. The baby boomers, born between 1944 and 1964. The final scene.

Am I being morbid? I can’t believe the timing, Bob.

Those over sixty are being marginalized, written off, along with those with pre-existing conditions.

Sixty-five, it feels surreal to be in this group. “Who, me?”

I am a writer. On fire. Ageism is real. It often goes over my head because I don’t think of myself as outdated, over-the-hill, irrelevant, invisible. But that is often the attitude of those younger.

Other writers, much younger writers, are often surprised to discover my age. A few years into creating a presence as a writer on social media, I attended a reading hosted by someone I initially met on Facebook. As someone who is photogenic and has a fairly youthful appearance, my age evidently wasn’t apparent online, because the hostess, upon meeting me, said, “Oh my god! I had no idea you were this old! I thought you were, like, my age!”

I had published a story that many of those attending had read and loved. Along with compliments, I repeatedly also heard, “Oh, wow! From your story, I just assumed you were a lot younger.” Clearly, my story was relatable to people of all ages. But when they met me, I didn’t fit their construct of a person capable of writing it. For the younger women who had loved my story, for the hostess eager to meet me, my actual physical presence seemingly broke some taboo, unspoken; my age defied the construct that says “Beyond a certain age, you must comport yourself differently; less visibly, less enthusiastically. Dampen your fire, recede into the background and stay out of what is deemed “youth culture,” culture occupied by youth, and constructed by youth. KEEP OUT.

If they had met me in person and I told the same story, they would have written it, me, off. I wonder what’s so terrifying about my aging face, this well-worn body?

Over sixty, they say. Most at risk.

“Wear masks for essential trips,” the governor of Colorado told the state recently. “Except those over sixty,” he added. “If you’re over sixty, don’t go out even with a mask. Stay home.”

In a movie from my youth, Wild in The Streets, everyone over thirty was rounded up and taken to camps. The youth were going to create a better world and anyone over thirty was in the way. That’s often how I’ve felt as an older, unestablished writer. My route to writing, a lifelong passion, was a circuitous one. I was a teen mom, then a solo working parent of two, and it took decades to get beyond poverty, the struggle to survive, and to find my way to writing.

On March 23, POTUS threatened to reopen the country, “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” he said. He acknowledged a tradeoff: lives lost to save the economy.

No, I won’t die for capitalism, for Trump, for Wall Street.

I would for my girls, for my grandbabies.

But for consumerism? For the lie that there is not enough?

Not a chance.

Ageism is real. But since this pandemic? In addition to the snark on social media (some youth calling the virus a “boomer remover”) I have seen a sudden, and often tender, respect, concern, and care for elders. Who, me?

Healthy, active, passionately alive. And yes, over sixty.

Like my husband said, “You will lose us anyway.” We are in the third act. Age is a construct and so is time. But death is not.

Nothing like this has ever happened, kids. Not in my lifetime, and not in my grandparents because no pandemic has happened during a time of air travel and global reach. All of it working together to pull back the veil on us.

Satellite photographs of China show the view before the pandemic and after. Before shows horrendous pollution, brown and dirty, ominous. After shows clear skies and the topography untouched. Like a world without us.

If we didn’t know we are one before this, we will after. It’s time to, as the Beatles sang when I was fifteen,

Come together right now over me. 

________________________________________________

Kelly Thompson has been published in Guernica, VIDA Review, Yoga Journal, Entropy, Oh Comely, Proximity, The Temper, and other literary journals. She is a contributor for the Rumpus and editor and curator for Voices on Addiction. She lives in the sunlight of the spirit in Denver, Colorado. Find her on Instagram @kellyblog or Twitter @stareenite.

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§ 35 Responses to Come Together

  • Phyllis Brotherton says:

    Fantastic, Kelly! You have captured into words everything I’ve been thinking and going through as a boomer, a women, and a late-blooming writer. And done it so well! I keep saying to myself and out loud: I’m not dead yet, motherfuckers!

    Thank you!

  • At least four years ago, I began writing a very long story about the world’s animal and human population being wiped out by a virus or bacterial inflection. I spent hours considering how a single survivor might manage without birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or birds. I kept finding science to support my narrative—facultative parthenogenesis exists. Vegans persist. Now I am publishing that story as a serial on my blog. Three people read the first installment on the day it went up, but readership has grown.

    We are retired—I am 67 and my husband is 70—but we are not done living. But things have changed, and I am perhaps a minority voice that does not expect things ever to go back the way they were.

  • Kelly,
    Thank you so much for this piece. I, too, am a (late) boomer and a relatively late-blooming writer. I was told I was too old to pursue a PhD, that I had missed the boat. I was told I was too old to teach in higher ed full-time. I’ve been ignored at conferences, bypassed in the hallways, because I’m from a different generation. It reminds me of an episode of the 1990s series, “Dinosaurs,” where the grandmas and grandpas were thrown over the cliff.

  • bearcee says:

    Thank you, Kelly. Right there with you! I’m 68, still 35 in my mind if not my body. But miles to go before I sleep. Bless you and your writing. Stay safe.

  • mikemul says:

    We are finally listening to Mother. Didn’t she always say to all of us do
    what I say and if you do I’ll give you something nice? Like clear air to breathe and clear water too, well at least for a little while. Soon the gas guzzlers will be back on the roads. The only ones we need right now on them are trucks delivering food to the soon to be starving if they don’t.

    We will all get over all this soon if we all use common sense. Remember,
    we never give up, we never surrender. We will beat this virus. We will win
    this war! Mother Nature loves us all!

  • Lea Page says:

    Yes, yes, yes.

  • Kathleen Cassen Mickelson says:

    Wow, this really nails it. All of it. I’m 60, my husband is 65, and the idea that we no longer matter just makes us work harder! I had blissfully ignored the “boomer remover” phrase until just recently. God, that’s vile. I’m trying hard to focus on the kindness that is being shown in so many ways rather than those who would demand a return to the capitalism that has scorched the earth. This is our chance to think about how to reframe society for the good of all, or at least the good of more than before. And the wisdom of those of us who have been around a while is irreplaceable.

  • Marie Tully says:

    Yes! Hear hear! It’s so gratifying to hears voices like my own speaking out, proclaiming indeed we are not dead yet! Great piece of writing ! Makes me feel completely understood at my wise old age of sixty-five. We have yet so much to contribute to this suffering world, and so many stories yet to tell.

  • archiep820 says:

    Hear, hear! Thank you, Kelly. Stay on fire.

  • Nan Seymour says:

    What a painfully clear piece. Thank you for writing.

  • Ranee Tomlin says:

    Kelly, finally! Someone who is writing my experience. I live in Littleton, Colorado. I’m youthful, healthy, active—and over sixty. My husband is nearly eighty, and he’s in better shape than many two decades younger. I’ve followed the news (too carefully, I fear) and have watched our Colorado governor’s press conferences; and then I’ve ranted to my children about the unintended and very real ageism of the tender care and concern being channeled toward those of us who have no underlying health issues except age.

    From your southwestern suburb, I’ll be cheering on your writing from behind my mask.

  • Rae Reads says:

    I am older than you, and like you, I do not feel old. Old is eighty.

  • llzranch says:

    You have written my experience. I started writing late in life in my mid-fifties. I’m mostly invisible to young people and young writers. Thank you for slapping agism around a bit.

  • claireaperez says:

    Yep…this is how I am beginning to feel as I inch toward 60. What a world and I appreciate reading this…irrelevant when in prior generations our age group was at the helm. Well I guess we can take the late great Leonard Cohen’s advice, forget our perfect offering and let our dimmed light shine through. Thanks for making my senses experience concrete.

  • claireaperez says:

    Oops, I meant sensed. itaboutthestory.wordpress.com is my site…

  • Calvin johnson says:

    Well done my younger sister…well done…

  • Kelly, thank you for writing this. I often feel the sting of ageism in the writing business. Now, it stings every time I lumped into “the elderly” in the news. I’m 69, but don’t call me elderly.

  • Susan Keefe says:

    Thank you for all you said. I am 72, feel like maybe 35, am not ready to leave my three grown sons, their wives. and my four grandchildren. Maybe I sound paranoid. But is our national health policy during the pandemic some form of passive genocide? Our deaths will reduce the annual cost of social payments and Medicare. Is that what the president wants? Is he working toward that end? A higher power will decide. In the meantime. Follow the president. Drink bleach. Inhale lLysol. And learn to pray the Kadish. Regardless of our faith traditions or lack of them, pray for mercy. Pray for peace.

  • G. J. Jolly says:

    Although I currently reside in Tennessee, I am a native Denverite. Additionally, I, too, am 65 years old. Family members living in the Denver area have told me Colorado will be opening up slowly soon. Don’t despair. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, Kelly.

  • Kim Gorman says:

    I enjoyed this post so much. I am 50, soon to be 51, and I do feel invisible sometimes.

  • Rebecca says:

    Yes, yes, a hundred times yes.

  • Emil Emil says:

    You are part of something much bigger, something ageless. This life is just small part of a journey, and your goal is to become aware, achieve higher state of consciousness.
    Time does not exist, not in a sense you might think when you look at the watch.
    Nothing comes without a reason, and there is no such thing like coincidence in the Universe. There is no such thing as random. The universe is finite in its infinity, and number of universe is infinite. Most people are sleeping awake, most are blind by the eyes. This Corona virus just showed me how much people are scared. And there is nothing to be scared off.

  • Born in 1963, so just inside of the Boomer bracket. I’ve not thought about my ‘status’ much, never taken it to heart really- perhaps because I’ve been a late starter in many ways- certainly late to writing. I started writing short stories about a year ago and have kept up (almost) daily writing since. Perhaps as the lone wolf that I am, I’m accustomed to being a bit of an outsider anyway, and used to that being my default position. Thank you for this lovely piece- the point about how nature has moved back into the gaps is just so touching

  • Finally had time to read this wonderfully affirmative piece! I’m 54 and I’m feeling it too. Not specifically to the pandemic, but in the writing culture, in my MFA program, and in society on a whole. On fire you say. Yup that’s right sista! ON FIRE! Onward! and thanks.

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