January: Connections

Now that we’re firmly ensconced in 2022, a very clear realization is emerging: the life-sustaining importance of connection in our lives. The constantly observed divisions among us in our own country and in the world, the bombardment of disquieting news, the difficulty of travel to gather geographically distant families, and the impact of social distancing all call out the need to connect. The more scattered we are, the more necessary for our psychological and emotional wellbeing connection is.

For many, nothing can replace the comfort and sense of belonging and security that a familiar human voice brings, whether we hear it through social media, Zoom, Skype, a land line, an iPhone, or two dixie cups and a long string.  

Sharing our thoughts and experiences in writing is often even more powerful – for the writer and the reader.  In addition to the conversations that are started here on ElderChicks, my sense of connection to world – ever more important as I age – is buttressed by responses and observations sent directly to me from around the world.  

So I am starting the rest of 2022 with anticipation.  How are you keeping in touch these days?  Are you finding new sources of community online?  Is your own line of connection expanding, and with it your world?  Any suggestions about how we might join you?  Let us know, please.  We’re all in this together!  

Remembering Ed Barrett

Dear ElderChicks,

As you know, ElderChicks come in all genders.  Ed Barrett was a regular reader and occasional writer in this space.  He was also a friend, not only to this blog, and to me, but to countless others.  Just this past year, he began, among his many other outreach activities, to write the “Kind Letter” after we talked about his beautiful idea. Some of you may even be on his ever-increasing mailing list.

I was privileged to include Ed in The New Senior Man that Bobby and I wrote in 2017. It was sheer joy to know Ed, to interview him, and to benefit from his example and inspiration. You can find his story on pages 35-37 in that book and glimpse some of his activities, his motivation, and his inspired dedication to making life better for everyone lucky enough to meet him.  

Ed asked his son to write the final Kind Letter.  It’s included here for you as a gift in and to his memory.
With love,

I wrote a letter to my sixth grade class in Southern Illinois when my family moved to Southern California in the 1950s. My hometown of White Hall even published my letter in the local paper. Years and years later (at least 50 years later), I managed to track that letter down and get a copy. The letters I wish that I’d saved, though, were those every student in my class sent me in reply to mine. Some of them didn’t have my address correct (I was living in a 27-foot trailer with no indoor plumbing when we moved to a run-down trailer park), but because there were so many letters with at least my name correct, the postal carrier knew to deliver them all to me. Oh, what fun it would be to read those letters today as a 78-year-old Elder Chick.

With age, communications have decreased because of passing family members and close friends, but with a few remaining friends in this never ending pandemic, it is now constant texting and emails. The EXCEPTION is my new best friend Amazon! Yes, Amazon. With a few clicks of my fingers, I will receive, not returning texts or emails, but books, bubble bath, my favorite scent and, as of yesterday, a set of water glasses and a new shower curtain. What a giving friend. Oh, I am aware of who is picking up the tab, but it is worth it vs. shopping and sweating under a mask while sidestepping those without masks. Plus I love going to the mail room and finding a package for me, yes by me, but it is still fun to open and enjoy whatever the content. How long will this Amazon friendship last? Most likely until I can shop without a mask! Until then, I will enjoy this giving, at my expense, from my new best buddy.

I had a penpal I got through the Girl Scouts when I was ten. Her name was Allison too although she spelled it Alyson and she was from New Zealand! We remained penpals right through to age 25 and then we lost track. I wonder where and how she is now! I also wrote to several other camp friends on a regular basis. I remember the excitement of getting a letter from one of my friends in the mail! Email just doesn’t come close to this. The tactile feel of the stationary and the envelope and the stamps plus the personality of each individual’s handwriting–very special experience! Can’t be duplicated!