Amour #1: Aging

~Part one of two where I randomly talk about aspects of Amour that piqued my interest or really resonated with me.

Also: such a bad post title. 

I watched Amour over the weekend. You know, the film that is nominated for several awards including Best Picture. It was a beautiful, sad, and quiet film that resonated with me. I walked out of the theatre in a pensive mood, as did many of my fellow movie-goers. I think it is a movie that calls for some quiet introspection.

The film’s protagonists, Anne and Georges, are an octogenarian French couple who live alone in a cozy flat. I’m going to write about the central theme, love, in another post later this week. For now I really want to-and in a way need to-talk about another important aspect of the film: age. In particular growing old.

I stopped by Walgreens and bought some tissue before heading to the theatre. I knew the premise of the film and also knew that, without a doubt, there would be some serious waterworks. You see, I feel that I have some innate and deep connection to older people. When I lived in Alabama I attended church regularly. I was part of “The World’s Greatest Sunday School Class” which was made up of about 70% elderly folks. I enjoyed hearing stories of when they were younger, learning about their faith and tribulations through the years, and even their grumblings about “these times”.

Working at Starbucks also gave meet the opportunity to meet some really inspiring and interesting elderly people. There was the couple that would come in almost every week; the wife ordering a latte and the husband ordering a hot cup of water for the tea bag he carried in his shirt pocket. When they stopped visiting regularly we all knew something was wrong. One day the wife came alone, clearly still mourning the sudden death of her husband. There was the man who was born in Michigan and who moved South; first to Tennessee and eventually to Alabama because of his job in the tire industry. He was a widow, a recent one by the way he sometimes lapsed into the present tense when talking about his wife. He would stay in the store for hours talking our ears off in a way to stave off the loneliness.

Of all the older men and women I encountered in Alabama none hold as special a place in my heart as the Vicks. “Call us Jerry and Curtis,” they told me at some point. But I couldn’t, not then and not now. Like many of the older people I met, they were regulars at Starbucks. They came in Tuesdays and Thursdays around 9-10. Curtis, the husband would almost always order first, a cappuccino followed by Jerry with her coffee and a slice of banana nut bread. Mrs. Vick was the one with the sweet tooth, while Mr. Vick was content to sit and sip his drink.

On the good days, there was a lull around the time they came to visit which gave me the opportunity to sit, talk with, and mostly listen to their stories. Man did they have some great stories. I felt that despite the age and generational gap we were kindred spirits. My friend, Heather, and I visited them once and were regaled with reminisces from their travels, explanations of their photos, and sandwiches made by Mr. Vick; the cook in the family. I often thought that Heather and I had taken to this couple but now I know that we were the ones that had been adopted by the Vicks. They became my adopted Alabama grandparents. I remember when I moved back to Texas I bawled like a baby when I had to say goodbye to them.

Excuse the weepy, messy girl in the middle.

Amour really brought not only my adopted grandparents but my real grandparents to the fore of my mind. If I cried so much when I had to move, first from Alabama and then from Odessa how much more devastated will I be when I have to say goodbye to them forever? Thankfully, both sets of grandparents are relatively healthy, well healthy in the sense that they are aware of their bodies, their sicknesses, and their aches. Anne, on the other hand became more dependent on Georges as she suffered several increasingly debilitating strokes. As the movie progresses, you see the toll that being a caretaker takes on Georges; emotionally and physically. There is a scene where he bends down to pick something up and struggles to stand back up. More than any other scene I think that one resonated with me the most in terms of aging, mortality, and growing old alone.

This morning, I turned on NPR to hear that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of the month. In his statement he writes, “I have come to the CERTAINTY [my emphasis] that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the exercise of the Petrine ministry”. CERTAINTY. That speaks volumes. The Pope, unlike Anne, has the time and cognizance to assess and synthesize the circumstances. Sure, both of them are clearly aged but one seems to have a more “natural” transition into his last years. I’m not sure if I’m making sense or not. What I’m trying to convey is I guess, the idea of owning ones aging vs. being owned by it.

A few last thoughts before I wrap this extremely lengthy (too long?) post. The audience on Sunday night was made up mostly of couples. Of these couples more than half were sixty years old or older. During quiet times in the film I would catch myself thinking, “How are they reacting to this film?” I know that aging and dying are inevitable for us all but it must be different to view mortality from the perspective of a twenty seven year old versus that of a sixty, seventy, or eighty year old. Lastly, Georges and his daughter, Eva, have a conversation in which Georges makes a remark similar to “We’ve always been by ourselves so we’ll be fine”. It really resonated with me. I realized that I had been lax on writing to the Vicks, calling my grandparents, and keeping up with the church folk. They don’t have to be alone. I am going to make a conscious effort to make sure that they feel surrounded by love and warmth even if it comes from hundreds of miles away.

Grandparents and cousin.

Grandparents and cousin.

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