“Old people are so boring,” George said 20 years ago after spending a Sunday afternoon listening to my dad and stepmother regale us with tales of who was doing what in their ward and neighborhood. Now, the shuffle is on the other foot as we note the glazed eyes of our kids on their visits.
But it’s not entirely age that creates the divide. We have friends and associates our age and older who have varied, even unusual, topics of conversation. Our twice-a-month writing class brings together a group of mostly retirees who add stimulating insights to the literature prompts with which we begin. Last time Len, a retired music professor, spontaneously sang us the melody from a Brandenburg Concerto mentioned in a poem we read. Angela, a connoisseur of art museums, illuminates writing points with references to famous art—sometimes imagining herself within a painting—once as a voluptuous Renoir nude. Gwen in her 70s and Kay in her 60s participated in an archaeological dig last year—backpacking into the site, camping in below freezing temperatures, and going without showers to spend a week sifting dirt for shards of ancient pottery. Nora, a retired attorney, heads up the state League of Women Voters. Jean, just returned from an 18-month LDS service mission to Madagascar, is looking for her next adventure. Our instructor, a workshop junkie who has forgotten more about teaching writing than I ever learned, brings poems from poets I’ve never heard of, helps us unpack meanings, and prompts us to try similar ways of expressing our own experiences.
The positive conversation of this group contrasts with the negativity of retired relatives and neighbors—convinced by talk radio hosts and TV pundits that the world is going to hell in a Prius driven by a tree-hugging immigrant. Maybe one difference is that members of our writing group—although mostly Mormon, mostly grandparents, and mostly owners of television sets— do not limit their interests to church, family, and TV. They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to share on any topic of discussion.
Possibly some of this will rub off on George and me, and our kids will start finding our conversation fascinating—but that’s optimistic. Our kids mostly talk about new APPs they’ve added to their iPhones. Maybe it’s they who should broaden their horizons.