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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Senior Momentum - December 2011

All In One Place
Once our children are launched and shaping their own lives, it can be really, really difficult to assemble everyone in the same place at the same time – something that many elders hope for -- especially around certain holidays.

In fact, pulling the project together, time and miles notwithstanding, can feel like trying to get the Rock of Gibraltar to move over – just a little! 

There might be a relative or two you wish would go live on Gibraltar – but for most, there is nothing quite like being together, hearing the unique sounds of our family laughing, recalling personal bloopers, remembering people and pets, and breathing new life into old teases and taunts!

One story leads to another, and the years seem to fall away for a while amidst favorite foods and faces.  That special familiarity floods over us, and in the end all are glad, regardless of what it took to make it happen.

Several years ago, I began (each February) sending my children two dates  – one to celebrate all our birthdays, and one to celebrate the holidays, but not on a holiday!  I reasoned that with the dates plugged in early, other things could work around them.  My children then have the actual holidays and birthdays for their own celebrations and styles.  Rarely have we had to re-plan. It works – and it makes me happy!

Not all elders have been so fortunate.  Under the friendly umbrella of holiday spirit, I struck up conversations with some seniors while shopping, having a coffee, or just waiting in line.  We’d talk briefly about holiday plans. What I heard too often was what many seniors feel about their younger generation “ … they just don’t have time for us these days. Everything is too fast; they join in because they feel obligated; everyone rushes through the meal; everyone is staring at a screen!”  How sad, and what a loss!

Younger family members seem caught up in a greatly accelerated lifestyle.   Has the speed lane wrought havoc on the gracious and relaxed aspects of “personal” social and family connecting?   Are board games and playing cards -- and the conversations that go with them -- things of the past? 

The mind-set seems to suffer under an artificially imposed “I am importantly too busy” paradigm.  It has an entire generation believing that it is all right to speak with one person, eyes diverted, while texting back and forth with another … no problem.  Things like that…

If a family gathering is viewed only as an obligation, and is scheduled like the filling in a sandwich between two immensely important slices of bread, creating pressure to arrive and pressure to leave, where and how can real personal relating survive in our families, our society?

Pressure is on from every direction.  “On-hold” messages pound in your ear.  Return envelopes beg you:  do it faster on-line!  People really believe an email is a letter! How many times in an average week are we prodded to do something faster?  Hey!  I know all that.  Faster isn’t necessarily better!

And maybe it’s partly our fault.  Is it too late to ban those gimmicks from the dinner table and opt for talking with each other?  Have we kept our grandchildren in the preparation loop, you know, like mashing the potatoes?  Have we reached over and invited them to bring us up to speed on what they are doing and thinking and why?

For the families where it works, having family all in one place at least a few times a year can be wonderful.  But for many it is just a memory – one missed and longed for.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant / Trainer / Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974.   In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum:  A Series of Situations”©; and essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American:  “Pieces of My Path”©.  To contact her — email: