Mental health notes: Ask the hard questions, make the sparks fly

We’ve all seen them, two elderly people sitting silently across each other in the restaurant or diner, staring past each other in a dull deadening silence.

How long have they been married? A long time.

Was it always like this? No.

Somehow, when they found each other still interesting, they had a lot to say, to report, to question. but watch a couple of women, even those of long acquaintinship: What did you do? Then what? How come? Reaaly? I can’t believe you said that!

But for John and Mar, there does not seem to be much to say. Children? Grandkids? Or does John, when he answers the phone say “Hi, let me call your mother?” as he returns to baseball or football.

Some dads, after retiring have found their way into the kitchen and are now the family cook, getting applause while Mom does the cleaning up.

So, what can be done to ignite a small spark left over from the times of courting and excitement? (“ We used to talk all the time,” they’ll say.) 

Now, the partners would have to develop interest in each other’s opinions whether it be politics, books or articles, food stamps or Afghanistan.

And here is another topic although of great interest generally postponed or avoided: End of Life. Most of us think about this matter a lot but talking about it? Some other time!

“What if you get sick? die? Which child might be available to help? How do you feel about nursing homes? About “extreme” measures to extend you life? If I were to die, where will you go?” etc etc.

There are hardly any more relevant topics than these, are there? “Some other time” might not be far away.

Imagine yourself returning from your long-term partner’s funeral. What could you have done to recapture some of the early feelings? What can you do now?

So, maybe on Thanksgiving or Christmas, you might raise your glass of wine, water, or diet cola with a hearty, “To you and the few years left to us.” You never know!

Editor’s note: Hedi McKinley, of Altamont, is a psychotherapist in Albany.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.