Who Would Have EVER Thought...?
by Zenobia L Silas-Carson
(Brooklyn Park Minnesota)
Me...at one of our food distributions
A few years ago, I would have thought it impossible. In fact, I would not have even discussed it.
After all, I was resting on my laurels. I had already worked as a special needs teacher. I had already done my time as a Certified Nursing Assistant. I had done my time in being a wife, a mother of five and even raised three grandchildren. I was holding up my hand going, "Been there...done that...got a whole set of tee shirts and a couple of sweatshirts! I AM DONE!
Something inside said ( I think it was laughing) "Oh really?" and I prepared myself for twenty or more years of The Price is Right, sleeping late and becoming more and more invisible at the check out counter.
The invisibility part came on evening at Walmart a few years ago when I stupidly tried to engage a twenty something cashier in a conversation about the coin purse I was carrying.
Her eyes swept over me and deemed me useless and old. I could FEEL her dismissal, but I was determined to stay relevant...if only to HER. I began desperately telling her how I got my cute and colorful coin purse. "My friend went on a cruise" I began and she did not acknowledge my voice, but I have always been persistent, so I pressed on. "She went to BELIZE" I said, above the noise of babies crying and other cashiers yelling stuff to each other. No response. When she called out my total, she never once acted as if she heard or cared to hear me, and that is when I made a conscious decision NOT to be ignored and invisible, and by golly, I would help other seniors in any way I could to remain visible and meaningful, for as long as we all shall live.
Now, I have worked for the same company for ten years. I was hired in 2008 as a substitute for a leasing agent in our other building. This led to their discovery of my love for writing ( authored a couple of books) and then I became a "floater" in many of their buildings.
By the time I became a "REAL" senior, I was working and living in where I am now, and began as an office assistant, then I began writing the monthly "Resident Spotlight" where I highlight one person or a couple and interview them. They are highlighted and get to tell about their life before retirement. This gives other residents in our 90 unit, Independent Senior community a chance to get to know and meet them.
We are a so called low income senior place, which simply means we did not plan our lives and retirement as those who planned differently.
I facilitate a workshop that meets every other week. It's called Senior Talk with Zenobia. I bring in topics that are relevant to senior life and growth within our season. I encourage LIFE....because it seems that almost everyone in our community is afraid of dying.
Since we experience a few deaths per year in our midst, I like to emphasize LIVING and what we can contribute of our life's experiences, rather than skulking around asking, "Who died?" and "Who was in the ambulance last night?" I jokingly say,"Well, obviously it wasn't YOU because you are still here...and life...whatever if left...is calling for you".
I am blessed to lead a walking club where we walk the parameter of each of our three floors, I also lead Laundry Bingo, Chair Bingo ( exercising in chairs), and Fruit Bingo.
As activities coordinator, I bring in live entertainment, nutritionists, folks who rub and cater to our feet, and I got the county to grant us $10,000 to create four, upraised gardens.
In 2013 I brought in a store called Zenobia's Community Store, where everything is donated and FREE! That's because when we left Chicago and came here to Minnesota, we were homeless. I had missed two paychecks and was evicted. During that time, I acquired a grandson who was ten months old. We began to travel from Illinois to Wisconsin, and finally ended up here in Minnesota, which has been our home for thirty years.
I was given an opportunity to go back to school, got my GED, took some college courses and qualified for other grants. I have NEVER forgotten how good this state was to me and my kids. Some were adults and others, just teens.
I raised that ten months old to adulthood and he is a wonderful 29 year old, with a new wife and a lovely future ahead. I am blessed also to be able to facilitate three food programs.
Now, at the beginning of this writing, I said, if you had asked me a few years back, I would NEVER have dreamed of all the stuff I am involved in. It is a blessing to bless others and I will spend the rest of this glorious life, helping others find peace and beauty, love and acceptance of themselves as we age.
Age is the leveling ground for us all. Those who were rich, are still rich, and those who were less than rich, or less than brilliant, or as brilliant as stars in the sky....we meet on common ground at some point. Our cherished memories of being young, dancing, singing, marrying or not, having children or not....is tied up in one bright ribbon, and we call it life. Make it a good one. Drop bitterness and hatred in a battered hat at the door and enjoy the rest of the ride.