After the death of my mother last February I suddenly realized that I had now become one of the "old people" in my family. My mother was the last survivor on both sides of my family. All of her siblings were gone and my father and his five siblings had also passed on.
My status became clear when I was talking to one of my first cousins about the passing of my mother and we both suddenly were aware that we had now become the oldest generation in our family. All of my cousins have children and my wife and I were the only childless couple, but a loose sense of family still lingers with all of the cousins.
The world is certainly a different place than it was when I was growing up in the 1950s. My grandparents were the old people then and they seemed ancient to us. We would visit them on a regular basis and my parents made it clear that these older people were due a special respect.
Despite the fact that my father's father was a Jewish-Russian patriarchal tyrant he was still the head of the family. His wife was the kindest, sweetest woman I ever knew and despite the fact that she never learned to speak a word of English, we communicated fairly well. Weekly visits were something we knew we had to do.
My mother's father was a Jewish-Polish immigrant and his temperament was the opposite of my father's father. He was a kind gentle soul who never learned to read or write English but who could speak the language well enough. His wife was American-born and she grew up in the now obliterated west end of Boston. We visited them on a regular schedule.
The visible old country ties are gone and now the grandchildren look to their parents, aunts and uncles (my generation) as the old people. I often wonder if they really have the perception of us as old people because being 65 years old now is not considered an ancient age.
I have a sense that the generations may feel closer to each other in many respects just because of the nature of the culture that we live in. Sure, there are still generation gaps, but it is harder to feel alienated from grandparents who came of age in the 1960s and partook of many of the indulgences of the day.
It is strange to hear a parent talk about the proper age their child should be before they smoke marijuana together. Yet, that is one of the questions that the current crop of old people dealt with. It certainly is a different question than the one a parent ponders about drinking alcohol with a child. That is the nature of the world we now live in.
Grandparents still want to be close to their grandchildren, no matter what generation they belong to but now there is a new twist. Grandparents will live longer and remain healthier for a longer time than their predecessors. Grandchildren will have a better chance to spend more years with grandparents who are still active, contributing members of society.
I often think of one my cousins in particular who worships his young granddaughter. He makes frequent postings to his Facebook page showing pictures of her posing for granddad. In his "retirement" he has become something of a troubadour and has even written songs about her.
I suspect that there may even come a time when they sing together, although it has probably happened.
As my generation heads into the next phase of their lives it will be interesting to see what the old people become.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.