Kick the Can

18 Jan

There’s an episode of the old Twilight Zone television series that aired February 9, 1962 called Kick the Can.  It is a ‘message piece’ that says more in 30 minutes about life & aging & staying who we are as we age than any current-day documentary could. It was written by George Clayton Johnson with Rod Serling. Since Serling was still a young man, I’m guessing Johnson was someone who was standing on the precipice of advancing years that actually “got it” & wanted to look at a way, even through a bit of 30 minute fiction on a science fiction television show, to change our eventual end. If he was not an older person, then Johnson possessed a healthy degree of gifted insight.

In Kick the Can the residents of a nursing home are disagreeable, disgruntled & dissatisfied with their lives at Sunnydale. One resident accidentally finds a way to return to his childhood by simply thinking / BELIEVING he is young again & encourages his friends & fellow nursing home residents  to join him in a game of Kick the Can. They believe he is totally nuts but eventually succumb to his badgering & join him in the game … at which point they turn into the children they had once been.

Amid children’s laughter & giggles, the episode ends with Ben, the only elderly resident of Sunnydale Rest Home  who would not participate or believe,  sitting alone on the steps of the nursing home holding the can. The others are forever children in the Twilight Zone & he realizes, too late, that they have left him behind. The window of opportunity to join them has closed forever.

I believe this episode is telling the viewer that if we think young & act young, no matter what ravages our bodies as we age, we will forever be young in our minds.

I have thought that as we get older we become more accepting of our own personal aging process. That we somehow adapt to what is happening to our bodies & lose any apprehension of what lies at the end of the road for us. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found out, for me, anyway, that simply isn’t true.

And I’m not the only one. A Baptist minister who is a good friend & often my advisor,  when asked how he was approaching turning 60, said, “Kicking & screaming all the way …” (he  & I will someday have  side-by-side rooms at our own version of Sunnydale Rest Home).

I have gained a deeper appreciation of the fact that getting old is just something ugly that happens to our bodies. If our minds are unencumbered by any form of dementia, we’re STILL ourselves in our head … in our soul;  still 30 years old or maybe just turned 40.

I’ve seen examples of this in my mom, in my aunt who just died 2 weeks before turning 87, in our wonderful friend, Millard who was still climbing ladders, cleaning out his gutters & volunteering his time at a local retreat before his death at 93, & in our beautiful friend, Martha who is 87; a bit unstable when walking in her walker but still a vibrant & charming 30-year-old in her head.

Because of these wonderful people who are & have been such a special part of my life, I am angry about death. My mother once responded to my anger by telling me I should not question “The Plan.” But I DO. While I know, intellectually, that death is a part of life & if new life is to come along with fresh ideas & new ways of solving the problems of our world & our existence, then those of us who have been here a while must go so the torch may be passed. I GET it … I just don’t LIKE it.

Here, the day following our return from North Carolina where we spent time with family following the death of my aunt … a woman so special to me that I can’t even write about it yet … I am hoping someone will find a cure for death in our lifetime. It seems to be the thing that is taking most of us out of here &, to me today, it has a uniquely unfair quality about it.

For me it’s not the dying … it’s the LEAVING.

Still dealing with my grief at my recent loss I am hoping someone will call us out into the yard to play a game of Kick the Can… to continue to be those young people we still are in our heads & to mimic the examples that have been so obvious in my life.  I’m hoping we all learn how to do that before we grow too old & end up like Ben, sitting alone on the steps holding that can somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

Speaking at the end of the Kick the Can episode , Rod Serling said this & I think it’s a good way to end MY episode:

“Sunnydale Rest Home – a dying place for ancient people who have forgotten the fragile magic of youth. A dying place for those who have forgotten childhood, maturity & old age are curiously intertwined & not separate. A dying place for those who have grown too still in their thinking to visit the Twilight Zone ……”

 

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6 Responses to “Kick the Can”

  1. Willy January 19, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    I know how much your aunt meant to you and I hope I was just a little like the caring friends you have all over the world. I have seldom thought about leaving and until recently had the notion I’d be strong until I was… well, old like I am now.
    Your blog was a view into the future, so lets enjoy what we have before I get older…ahhh!

    Like

    • heimdalco January 19, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      I love you, Willy & couldn’t have made that trip without you.

      As we’re growing older together maybe we can stumble upon that special can to kick & grow YOUNG together …

      Like

  2. Teran Harrison January 19, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    Thank you Linda for the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling is still one of my favorite writers. Nice to know someone who shares my admiration for his creative and bizarre stories. Teran

    Liked by 1 person

    • heimdalco January 20, 2016 at 2:19 am #

      Thanks again for reading my blog entries, Teran. I had the idea for what I wanted to say then woke up on Monday morning thinking about that Twilight Zone episode & how it fit with the idea I had for the blog entry. Some of my best ideas pop out of my head when I first wake up … LOL

      Like

  3. Les January 20, 2016 at 2:27 am #

    Thank you Linda for “Kick the Can”, I love the Twilight Zone, think it runs in my family. I can tell by your writing how much your Aunt mean to you and was a very special part of your life. We only have our faith that at the end of this journey we will understand “The Plan” and once again know what it’s like to be those young people that live in our heads. So sorry for your loss, it’s never easy to say goodbye. As always enjoyed the read. Les

    Like

  4. heimdalco January 20, 2016 at 2:47 am #

    Thanks so much, Leslie. The “Kick the Can” episode just seemed to fit with what I was trying to say. Thank you for your kind words.

    Love you ….

    Like

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