By Rebecca F. Rikleen,  a member of Get Your Wordsworth

I am 89. I go to senior centers where I paint along side other older men and women. We are happy to see that we each made it, and we greet one another with congratulations and solicitations. So I am familiar with the long list of ailments that come with age.

Even with exercise and rest and good diet I am turning deaf and blind and unsteady. I know the script from phone calls and visits, all the thorns and barbs, the horrors of old age. I don’t want to spend visiting time hearing the list. There is a world to watch and attend to.

But on the bus in our busy city I see, and marvel at the nerve of shaky old men, shriveled old women, up and about. We stop the bus for a wheel chair, or two wheel chairs, sometimes leaving a third wheel chair on the curb to wait for the next bus.

They are heroic, these declining physical wrecks.  They can barely walk; they fall and break bones; they use canes and walkers. But they move about. They risk the steep steps, the jerky stops and starts of a bus in traffic.  They come; they go; brave, engaged, fighting the dragon, facing the storm, spitting at fate, breaking out of cemetery village.

I am one of them.  I navigate the steep mountains of Riverside and Tieman, down to the bottom of Broadway valley.  From there I scale the summit to the screaming elevated train. Later I scorn the winds when the bus is late, all this battle to arrive at my oasis of seniors to paint a tree. Afterwards I tackle the snares of returning. Finally, safely back home, I glory with triumph, Olympic-medal triumph.

We useless, lived-too-long society discards achieve a triumph every time we venture out. It is a small triumph but real.

We are heroes all.  And the other passengers know it. They wait patiently in line to board. They offer a seat. They acknowledge their elders as in ancient times, this time not looking for wisdom of experience, but showing compassion for the physical injuries. They know they are looking at their future.


6 thoughts on “URBAN HEROES

  1. nancyeder says:

    Rebecca, you’re my hero! This is one of your Best in Show. . . .Best Ever Triumphs. I’ve heard you read it in class, yet reading it here still brings tears to the eyes, as i could HEAR you speaking this pictorial essay.

    So Brave! So True! So beautifully described. It should be set in stone. I think you deserve an Olympic medal for writing this winning description of life at a certain age.

    BRAVO !!

    Fond admirer,


  2. Jeanette Campbell says:

    Rebecca – that was so good and so true – but I think other passengers actually do look to you for wisdom – they acknowledge your wisdom in just keeping on keeping on – and enjoying the success of it – well done!

  3. Ellen Morgan says:

    I’m a distant admirer of your group, and always love seeing the latest blog entries. Nancy, who is my (older) sister, inspired me with her writings and her descriptions of the wonderful
    writing group she joined a few years ago. Now I, along with my husband, Wally, belong to a group organized through the University of the Third Age in London, where we live. Involvement with this group has not only encouraged us to be disciplined in writing stories from our lives, but has also enriched our lives through hearing the wonderful stories of others, many of whom have come from vastly different backgrounds. But reading your piece about the struggles of elders was both heartwarming and poignant. I think we need to encourage our children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren to learn about life through hearing the wisdom in the voices of their elders. The oral tradition has ensured cultural transmission in many traditional societies, but I think it’s wonderful to contribute our ideals, values and hopes for the future through written records.

    Your description of a simple act says it all…and I would definitely cast my vote to award you an Olympic medal.

    Please keep on painting, both in pictures and in words!


  4. Liz Haak says:

    Bravo, Rebecca! I hope to grow up like you, someday… well, not someday, the next 20 years will probably go pretty quick, just like the last 20. Thanks for writing, thanks for painting, thanks for braving public transportation. Keep it up! Blessings,

  5. peggy strait says:

    What a powerful piece of writing! And, so revealing of your strength of character.
    Following your example, we will all be Urban Heros!

  6. Marilyn Crockett says:

    This is an excelllent piece. Congradulations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: