Fred, former university professor, pilot and flight instructor, development officer and father with his wife and partner, Joyce, former ER nurse, mother and interior designer/seamstress.

Increasingly Irrelevant

by David E. Perry

I watch them

in cafes,

in malls,

standing in line at the DMV.

I study them,

drinking their coffees at Starbucks

waiting for spouses at the doctor’s office,

walking their dogs,

picking up other peoples’ litter…

I’m fascinated by,

and a student of

these human souls

who struggle daily to adjust,

if only bit by bit,

to make some sort of uneasy truce

with their new, unwanted status.

How does one ever make peace

with the daunting fact that

one has become,

is becoming…

increasingly i r r e l e v a n t?

To a person,

each of these men and women I observe

used to be

much more important,

much better seen

and far less ignored,

back when they were younger.

Fred as a teenager, pilot, flight instructor.

It’s sad, really.

They understand so many amazing things,

having walked the path ahead of us,

having lived through extraordinary times

and gleaned their lessons.

They have survived movements

and wars,

presidential assassinations,

hospitalized children,

university classrooms,

paradigm shifts,

great loves…

and inevitably…

great losses.

They have been pounded by wave after wave

of profound change

as it has crashed against the shorelines

of their once youthful hopes and expectations.

And they are still here,

contributing where they can,

smiling however they can manage it,

despite the fact that

unless they have money in their hands

no one seems to notice them much,

…or appears particularly interested

in what they might have to say.

Not really.

Not any more.

Society nowadays hangs on

every vapid tweet

that some Kardashian girl thumb-types

on her diamond-encrusted iPhone

and makes bold headlines

out of leaked booby pictures

and wardrobe malfunctions,

but it has no questions

and no time

for the insights

of the workers and teachers,

and even leaders

that drove and shaped a previous generation’s

accomplishments.

“Step aside, old man,” I hear,

or, “Excuse me lady.”

What some seem to mean and never quite say is this:

“Can’t you see I’ve got more important things on my mind,

and more important places to be?”

Aubrey, civil engineer, surveyor, water master, grandfather, well-witcher.

I see you…

on those days when you haven’t quite combed your hair

because really, who will care?

I see you as you sit there politely

sipping your coffee,

filling yet another idle hour

in yet another day

knowing that no one half your age will seek you out

to ask you what you think

about almost anything.

I see you wrestling

with this strange new invisibility

and I know that soon enough

you will be me. Or is it I, you?

I wonder how I’ll manage

as I become increasingly invisible.

I think you’re brave,

even elegant,

while you stoically wait your turn

again and again.

I think you’re beautiful,

even while you’re wishing you would be invited to contribute

more,

more than some casual, polite commentary on how you’re feeling today.

Or whether you pooped,

…or took your pills.

I see you biting your lip and wishing your thoughts and opinions mattered

the way they once did,

even while swallowing your diminished pride in bitter little sips

as bravely and elegantly as you can manage,

all the while wondering,

“How did this happen?”

“When did I become irrelevant?”

“How did all those things I worked so hard to be good at

become so unimportant to the rest of the world?”

I see you.

And for whatever little that may be worth to you

I just needed to say it.

I am ever so grateful for who you are,

for your many, though sometimes invisible contributions

to this very world I live in with you.

You are exquisite.

You are wonderful.

And you absolutely deserve better.