Advice from the Aged

Olivia Doak, News Editor

More often than not, we take our senior citizens for granted. We forget that they were once our age, experiencing all of the difficulties and the adventures of growing up. When in fact, they have a lot of knowledge to offer if we just take the time to listen. So to talk to some of our community’s elders, I went to Sunrise Assisted Living in Crystal Lake to interview two ladies who live there. Mary, born on January 22, 1931 (85), plays bingo, paints, and does many other activities at the facility. Lorraine, born on October 3, 1929 (87), is a spirited woman that likes to go on spontaneous motorcycle rides with her friends. The two ladies are very close and will often be seen at meals or weekend activities together. But beneath the seemingly ordinary exterior of these companions lies two lifetimes of past experience and wisdom.

Mary grew up on the north side of Chicago with her parents and four sisters. She went to school at St. Matthias and was raised in the loving cocoon of her family and friends. When she was seventeen, she met her husband. One of her fondest memories of being a teen was going ballroom dancing at the Aragon with her husband while they were still dating. Mary was 21 when she got married, her husband, 25. They were happily married for 62 years.

Lorraine, on the other hand, had a very different upbringing. She grew up on a farm in Wisconsin where there was no electricity, and it was a three mile endeavour to the nearest sign of civilization. By the time she was 14, Lorraine drove by herself into town on errands. Because the nearest high school was nine miles away and her only option was to walk, she didn’t attend high school either. Eventually, she moved to Chicago and worked at Hammond Organs. Shortly after arriving in Chicago, she met her husband at a baseball game. They were married in Chicago when she was just 18 years old and lived a long, happy life together.

When asked if they had any regrets, both ladies answered with a firm, but simple, “No.” I asked them how they had lived such happy, fulfilled lives. Mary replied, saying,“My mom and dad were great…we had a wonderful life. I had fun. My husband worked hard, and we had a lot of good times together. He was always a nice, kind soul.” She also went on to say that she and her husband did not fight a lot. When Mary mentioned her amiable relationship with her husband, Lorraine piped up and said, “In true life, that don’t always happen.” She said that fights are inevitable, so “you just walk away and don’t talk for a few hours and then he comes up and says he’s sorry or whatever and that’s the end of that.” Although both ladies were talking about their husbands, they emphasized that this idea be applied to all relationships. According to Mary and Lorraine, the type of relationships you have with your loved ones determines the quality of your life. After all, both ladies said that the happiest they had ever been was the day they got married. If they hadn’t worked to keep their marriage together during the tough times, it’s possible they would not have been able to answer my question in the same way.

When we discussed the most important influences in their lives, both Mary and Lorraine talked about their family and friends. Lorraine advises us to develop healthy relationships and to always “do for one another, not that one does more and the other doesn’t do nothing.” Mary says the most important thing to remember regarding people you love is to not “get mad at each other and walk out.” She says that your family and friends are your support system, your safe place to go when you feel lost. If you lose them, you lose yourself.

So next time you find yourself in the company of your grandparents or great-grandparents, I challenge you to really listen to what they have to say. Maybe even ask them some questions about their lives. In the end, I promise you that in the process of learning about their pasts, you will learn even more about yourself.