05-14-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


Gray power Old people don’t realize how much power they really have. We control much of the financial assets available. Ah ha, you say… but my kids have all of my money! Yes, and they are spending a lot on your care. New assisted living venues are springing up all over. There are more and more of us as baby boomers retire. I first really began to realize this when I saw an ad on TV years ago. A little old lady named Clara Peller was waiting for a hamburger in a fast food place. She finally stuck her head through the door out into the kitchen and yelled, “Where’s the beef?” That cry was immediately taken up all over the land. In fact, it was so overused that it went out of favor quite rapidly. But the question remains to this day. And can be applied to many situations… where is the beef? I can remember thinking about this some, way back in the day. I bumped up against old people’s lives, because we took care of some old people… and some people who weren’t so old, but had other problems. We didn’t have places like where I am now living back then. I’ll mention just one… our cousin, Anton. Tony was born in Germany and came over here as a young man. He was a skilled woodworker and spent his whole career in Chicago working for Montgomery Ward. He also enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent World War II as an interpreter. So he paid his dues. When he got too old to live by himself, we moved him out here to Michigan… I might add, over his strenuous objections. Brother Bob had just built some new apartments, and we moved him into one of those. There he lived in lonely splendor as long as his health was good. Marion and I walked over there just about every day to take him his lunch. And we included him in all of our family get-togethers. When his health failed, we got him into the veterans’ hospital, at Battle Creek. There he spent his remaining life. I use him as an example, because every step of the way he fought against change. We all hate change, and Tony was a perfect example of how old people can dig in their heels and protest some injustice. He loved to eat at Burger King and there had always been one right near his home in Chicago. He said a Whopper had all the necessary nutrients for a meal. So whenever we had a chance, we would take him to what he called “The Burger”, and buy him a Whopper. One day we walked over to his place with homemade soup Marion made. He ate it all right, but grudgingly. And he remarked, “I’ll bet you guys had a hamburger!” “No, Tony,” I answered, “we had soup just like you have here!” And I had to admire the tenacity with which he clung to whatever independence he could keep. That is a common occurrence with old people. They don’t want to lose what little control they have over their lives. We’ve all heard horror stories about mistreatment that old people suffered at the hands of caregivers. I can remember one kid I ran into as Marion was working private duty in a small family hospital. He kept the old people in line with subtle threats. Sure, it made his job easier for him. How would he do it? He would casually bring out a long folded knife and casually start trimming his fingernails as he talked to them. Sure, little old ladies were terrified. They finally caught up to him, and I think he got his just desserts! Fortunately that’s an extreme case and I don’t think it happens anymore; the nursing homes and assisted living places I’ve seen are most professional. Surely, I’ll admit it… old age is scary. People often don’t feel well, have to take more pills, and are much more involved with doctors. That’s enough to scare anybody! And on top of that they are entering the stage of life where they’ve never been before. I know because I am one of them! Because of diminished physical power, they feel unable to control their own lives. Again, I know all about that. But what old people tend to forget is the financial power many of them have. As a group we control much of the assets in our country. The people who build facilities to house old people realize what a market it is. The family that built The Vineyard is well aware of the situation and they have answered a need. They provide a quality residence for people like us. Perhaps we need to mount an advertising campaign… “Don’t be afraid of old age!” It’s just another stage of life! Cast off your chains, Americans! Don’t I sound good? Do not be fooled, I’m right in there worrying with the best of them. Just another American kid trying to weave a few more golden threads into The Great Tapestry of Life in these story book towns along the Paw Paw River!

Were you proudly photographed at your graduation? With your diploma? With family? This photograph is of Miss Mary DuVall. The proud graduate went on to marry William Grant. Please share your graduation story with North Berrien Historical Museum, contact them at 269-468-3330 or