Thursday 11 April 2013

"Is life there to laugh?"

Oma and me, June 2012
This is horrible English. But I talked to my grandma on the phone in German this morning and now I'm thinking German. This is the (rhetorical) question she asked me.

Oma is 84, lives in Germany, and recently moved from her house (she lived in it for over 50 years) to a special place in her village: It's not really assisted living, more like a commune. She shares a beautiful house with 4 other ladies and 1 gentleman, all in their 70s and 80s. (One of them might actually be in her 90s now, I'm not sure.) They can get help when they need it, but so far they are managing on their own: cooking together, watching TV, going for little day trips into town, that sort of thing. It's pretty sweet, like dorm living for senior citizens. I can see myself in a place like that in, oh let's see, 50 years from now!

But I digress.

I call Oma once a week, and she always asks how work is going: If I still enjoy it, if I'm doing a decent job, are they gonna keep me (no over-confidence in our abilities in my family).
Since I honestly love my job (most days) I don't have to lie when I assure her everything is going great. Today I told her that we have a ton of fun, joke around most of the time and laugh a lot. Hence the question: "Ist die Arbeit denn zum lachen da?" ("Is work there to laugh?" I paraphrased in the title.)

I find a lot of Germans have that attitude to life. Especially the older generation. They don't do things just "for fun". Work is work, it's serious business. There is a place for fun: parties, holidays, social gatherings. But not everyday life.

Life is categorized in neat little pigeonholes: You may be a bit silly and frivolous in your teenage years, but once you hit your twenties you should really shape up. Get a grown-up job, a mortgage, start a family. If you don't get it together in your twenties, older folks will frown, and you better have your sh*t together on your 30th birthday.

You will also dress a certain way. Have an age-appropriate haircut. The older people get, the more subdued their wardrobe. Lots of beige and "neutral" colours.

I went to high school with people that seemed old in grade 12. No curiosity, no wild big dreams, no crazy plans for adventures or lofty goals.

Then I came to Canada. And people would tell you all the time: "We had fun". "Let's do [fill in the blank], it will be fun." What an intriguing concept! My hubby always wanted to ride horses. So when he moved out to the country, he bought a horse at the auction. Walked it home 7km (he didn't have a horse trailer then). Started taking riding lessons. At the age of 40! I love that.
When I went back to school I was 28 - there were a lot of fellow student older than me. Starting a new career, re-inventing their lives.

To me Canada is the land of endless opportunities. You want to travel for a year? Folks will applaud you and encourage you.
Starting your own business? Find a new career in your thirties, forties or fifties? You can do it! Where I grew up you would get to hear how silly and impossible it is. It might be impossible there. I think it really is incredibly hard to find a job after the age of 50. How crazy is that? A lot of people have to take early retirement to make room for the younger generation.

But here? The sky is the limit. At least that's how it appears to me.
One of my elderly patients told me last night: "We live in the greatest country in the world."
I couldn't agree more!
I feel so fortunate and lucky to have this life.

And I'm grateful for this fantastic spring we are having! Especially since it is so dreadful almost everywhere else.
Go out and enjoy it!
xo Miriam



1 comment

  1. I think that is why it is referred to as the "old country".


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