04 August 2012

the opening Ceremony In dual-Vision

Let me start this post with an explanation and an apology:
I do not religiously follow the Olympics.
I don't even follow them in a religious-Catholic-that-only-comes-to-Mass-for-Easter-and-Christmas sort of way.
I don't follow it at all.
I'm sorry if this upsets you.

(Side-note: this is why I'm so amused when others show anger or disappointment when results from the Olympics come out on Twitter before they get a chance to watch it on television; in my mind, the news coming out over Twitter saves me the hassle of having to sit and watch the competitions. It's the best thing to happen to the Olympics since...ever.)

I have great respect for the tradition of the Olympic Games and the international camaraderie that it represents. I just don't care about sports. In pretty much any shape or form.
Allow me to clarify one point before moving on: I am not anti-sports. I'm not opposed to them in any way (except, perhaps, aesthetically...), I just don't care about them. Like my carpet. It's there, it's doing its job, and that's great, I'm just not that preoccupied with it. Don't care.

That being said, I do try to make a point of seeing the Opening Ceremonies for the games. I feel like that's the decent, respectful thing to do. Another country is hosting a global event and opening its doors to the athletes of over 200 other nations, spending wild amounts of money and time and energy to put together a show to embrace and welcome those nations. The least I can do is watch, admire, and learn about the host's culture. To me, it's one of the largest and most symbolic gestures of international peace and cooperation that we can find in today's world.

I've watched Opening Ceremonies over the years with my family, my husband, and sometimes alone. This was the first time I've watched them with an elderly person. My husband's grandmother, to be exact, with whom we are currently living (henceforth to be known as Grandma R).

London's theme for the ceremony was Pop Culture (for those of you who aren't "in the know"), and rightly so, I felt. They've given us classic literary characters from Mary Poppins to Harry Potter. The music of the western world as we know it would not be the same without England's contributions of The Rolling Stones, Queen, and The Beatles. And I'm sure my fellow anglophiles out there will agree with me, that life is just better with Dr. Who and BBC's Sherlock in the world.

Grandma R knows nothing about pop culture. She has only a very vague idea of who The Beatles were, and I'm sure she's never heard of Dr. Who. I'm pretty sure she's heard of Harry Potter, but I don't think she knew that he was from a book until they mentioned it in the Opening Ceremony.

The idea of interpretive dance is also completely lost on her. Seeing nurses dancing around beds with sleeping children confused her considerably, so you can probably imagine her mental state when large balloon-characters of Captain Hook and Voldemort began to rise up on the stage and a small girl on a hospital bed began floating into the air.

She looked at me with a look of incredulity and asked, "Were our opening ceremonies like this??" I think it would be a fair assessment to say that she was horrified at the prospect that our opening ceremonies might have born any resemblance to the spectacle before her. Yes, I believe "horrified" is the exact word I'm looking for.

I didn't know how to respond. I still don't. Not really.
At one point I tried to explain what the different parts of the show represented to Great Britain, but as soon as the horde of Mary Poppinses started raining down onto the stage she interrupted me (I don't think she meant to interrupt; truth be told, I think she forgot what I was talking about or that I was speaking at all) and said, "Mary Poppins is a great show," and in a more serious tone she added, "There's no swearing at all in that show." Then she nodded, wordlessly saying, 'And that's the absolute truth. Watch it yourself if you don't believe me.'

I stopped trying to explain things after that.

For the most part I enjoyed the Ceremony, but the experience was slightly tainted because part of me was watching from the point of view of Grandma R. Half of me found it hip, fresh and unique while the other half was made uncomfortable and perplexed by its strangeness. The literature and music that was highlighted spanned over decades and decades of time, but the show was definitely not tailored to appeal to all generations. I can't imagine many of Grandma R's peers really diggin' it.

Except maybe the Queen. I'll bet she liked it. She's a pretty hip lady.

This post makes it sound like Grandma R is on the verge of dementia. She's not. She can still take care of herself and is quite lucid. She's just old. 80 or thereabouts. It makes me wonder what I'm going to be like after I've been around for the better part of a century, and what my grandchildren will think (and blog) about me.

And how's your Olympic week going?

02 August 2012

Oh the Times, they Are a-changin'

For you, patient friends...

...a story:

I live with an old person now.
As you may or may not remember from some previous post, my husband and I decided to live in his grandmother's basement. She's a widow and could use the company and help around the house. We're poor with a baby on the way and could use a rent-free place to crash for a while.

So far it's been quite pleasant. While my husband is at work, I hang out upstairs in the kitchen and sit with her, listen to her stories and keep her company. She's a sweet old lady.

It's different to spend an afternoon with an old person, as opposed to an afternoon with peers. No matter how sweet the old person may be, you'll still have to adjust to the conversations.

For example, with my peers we talk a lot about the future. What our plans are, when we're going to graduate from school, where we're going to go after graduation, the jobs we plan to have, the lifestyle we're going to live...
And we talk about the present. What's going on in so-and-so's life, this professor is amazing, this professor should die in a hole, here's my latest project...

With an old person, we only talk about the past. Memories and stories of children, how they've grown and when their children were born, stories of past escapades, past jobs, past neighbors...
And inevitably, we come back to the topic of death.
"I used to chase with these girls in high school, two of them are dead now."
"He had a coworker with the best sense of humor, they're dead now."
"My neighbor from way back would trade pears for apples with me, she's dead now."
Cancer. Stroke. Heart attack. Plain and simple old age.

When the topic of death comes up with my peers, it's sobering and solemn. We speak softly to reverence the dead, wonder and mourn at how young they were, and are silently grateful that we're still traipsing about on this spinning blue marble we call Home.
But when she, my (new) grandmother, says the word "dead" there's no change in volume, tone of voice, or even a sympathetic pause. That person is dead now. That's what they are. And Death is coming for us, too. That's reality and she's dealt with it.

I, being young and still believing myself to be immortal, am still learning how to adjust to this outlook on Death. I can't pinpoint how she expects me to respond. A soft, sad "oh..." seemed inappropriate. Silent, solemn nod of the head with eyes averted to the floor didn't seem quite right either. Even a subtle eyebrow-raise seemed to be too much.

Now I just put on a poker-face and try to quickly usher her forward, away from Death and on to the next reminiscence. Which is ultimately pointless because we keep coming back to it. I can't get any kind of read on her when she mentions someone has died or is dying - her poker face is impenetrable. Is she sad? Resigned? Anxious that her number is coming up? I can't tell. At all.

I try to read her face to see how she expects me to respond. The weird thing is, I get the feeling that she's looking at me the exact same way.
Don't look at me for the appropriate emotion; you're the one that brought this up, lady!

Now you know what my days are like. Talking about the past and avoiding pop culture references (they just confuse her and explaining them to her is never a satisfying experience).

Speaking of pop culture, I watched the opening ceremony for the Olympics with her this week, in which London celebrated all the fantastic music, movies, television programs and literature it has spawned and spread to the rest of the world. That was interesting to watch with an old person...remind me to tell you about it next time.
Until then...cheers.