"Grandma, what color is your hair? White. Just like milk!
I was moved by my grandson’s observation who, at age two, likes “white milk”.
The primordial nutrient, that brings with it comfort, tenderness, growth and nutrition.
Milk is good!
My grandson didn’t tell me that my hair was white as snow, which is cold and burns, and he wasn’t talking about “saudade”.
In his childhood wisdom, he was going against the foul words spoken by a Social Democratic deputy who, in a moment of parliamentary theatricality, said that “our fatherland was contaminated by the gray plague” (sic).
In order to speak against the systematic violence against the elderly, now also perpetrated in our country’s highest Chamber, I did some research on the accomplishments of said gray haired guys: the “plague”. Here are but a few:
· Morse developed the Morse Code at age 47;
· Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, was a War correspondent at age 67;
· Bell was still inventing at age 75 and Edison produced the telephone at age 84;
· Golda Meir was Prime Minister at age 70 and Winston Churchill both at 66 and 77 years old, and Adenauer at age 88.
· Both Charles de Gaulle and Ronald Reagan were presidents at age 69.
· Benjamin Franklin gave his contribution to the US Constitution at age 81.
· Goethe finished “Faustus” at age 81, Tolstoi wrote “I cannot be silent” at 82, Somerset Maugham wrote “Viewpoints” at age 84, and Bernard Shaw wrote the “Farfetched Fables” at age 93;
· Claude Monet still painted in his 70’s – 80’s, Michelangelo in his 80’s and Picasso in his 90’s.
· Albert Schweizer still worked on the operating table at age 89;
· Elizabeth Arden and Coco Chanel both took care of their respective companies until they were over 85 years old.
· Rubinstein played in his 90’s and Pablo Casals while over 96 years of age;
· Tesichi Igarishi climbed Mount Fuji on foot in his 100th birthday;
· Manoel de Oliveira directed twenty films after his 82nd birthday and released his film “Gebo and the Shadow” while he was 104 years old.
One might argue that these are only a few and successful people, while there is an enormous amount of useless and ill elderly that make society spend an enormous quantity of money. The foolish inverted pyramid!
While they don’t decide to retake the old Sparta’s habit of throwing the elderly into the sea, perhaps in Sagres or Cape Espichel, I would like to name but a few elderly who anonymously and without glamour, continue to prove their usefulness every single day:
· There are mothers in their 80’s that must once again take care of their unemployed sons;
· There are grandparents taking care of the household members suddenly unemployed or divorced;
· There are husbands or wives taking care of their now demented partners;
· There are many elderly all over the country, taking care of their plantation or villages, and so maintaining our secular identities.
· There are many elderly still working and making a living;
· There are many elderly stubbornly living alone.There are many elderly who are unique deposits of our cultural knowledge and of our collective memories;
· There are many gray heads ruling over Europe’s destiny;
· There is a national solidarity network of people and institutions, organized beside the current state of affairs, that maintains untouched and alive churches, homes and other social institutions;
· In Europe, it is mainly gray haired people who silently perpetrate in each church our Lord Jesus’ memento: “Do this in my name”.
The Scriptures teach us that age brings wisdom. Thus, the biblical patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were elderly, and the most stable institutions in History, such as the Religious Churches, Universities or the Armed Forces, have been governed by gray haired people.
Our deputy surely did not have the pleasure of being in his grandmother’s lap, nor does he have parents with gray hair.
Since my hair is white as milk, I am really sorry for you. I’m sorry for you and for all those who can’t see anything in their lives beyond money, power and possessions.
I’m sorry for those who, as Pope Francis says, are contaminated by indifference’s globalization.
I’m sorry for those who don’t include any sort of transcendence in their daily lives.
And therefore, especially for you, Mr. Deputy, and for whoever feels like reading it, I leave a psalm for an eventual meditation.
The justs will flourish like a palm tree and will grow as Lebanon’s cedar trees; planted in the Lord’s Home they will flourish in Our Lord’s court. They will still bear fruit in their elder age and will remain fresh and verdant.
Professor Teresa Paiva
Lisbon, July 19th 2013