The Rules We Live By

let it outWhen my grandfather got very old, he seemed to be depressed and sometimes angry.  His wife passed away a few years earlier, so like lots of our old people he was alone, or not around family, much of the time.

I’d have dinner and visit with him every Thursday night, and my dad would see him more frequently each week. Most of the family was too busy with their lives to visit him much, plus toward the end my grandfather was a bit cranky too, so he wasn’t a magnet for visitors.

I thought maybe some counseling  would help him out. But it wasn’t my call, so that didn’t happen. Why not? Probably because of the stigma attached to reaching out for help for psychological  issues and the feeling that it probably wouldn’t do much, if anything. So my grandfather stayed kinda cranky and sorta unhappy at the end of his life.

Maybe counseling would’ve helped. It’s hard to say, sometimes it might help a lot, while other times you can’t see the needle move – at least to an outside observer. It’s like taking a multivitamin tablet, you probably won’t see anything dramatic happen but it’s likely to be doing some good.

It’s been a long time since my grandfather died. I started thinking about him after I watched a documentary called “Slomo.” Slomo is the nickname of a doctor who stopped his successful neurology to do what he loved, skating every day on the boardwalk in San Diego.

The video is embedded in the NYT article, “Slomo.” In the article the videographer says, “Disillusioned with a life that had become increasingly materialistic, he had abruptly abandoned his career as a neurologist and moved to a studio by the beach. The locals called him Slomo, knowing little about his past life, but cheering and high-fiving him as he skated by in slow motion.” And “I’ve long been fascinated by people who make seismic changes late in life. It goes against the mainstream narrative: Grow up, pick a career, stick it out, retire. I was also curious about Slomo’s concept of “the zone,” a realm of pure subjectivity and connectedness that he achieves through his skating.”

My grandfather wasn’t a skater or a doctor, but he was part of the “Grow up, pick a career, stick it out, retire” narrative most Americans buy into. It’s interesting to see how people deal with the template that’s laid out for them, or the rules they choose to live by.