Growing Old in America
IN EVERY park in every city in the United States on almost every day of the year small children and aging adults meet to take the air. The adults sit quietly on the benches, while the little ones run around, swing from the fences, and make a general commotion. The old returned to the haunts of the very young, natural allies laid by together out of the way of the bustling and “responsible” world-so it may seem to the casual passer-by. However, the feeling that ac- tually dominates the park is not one of alliance; it is one of hatred. And what goes on between the two groups is not an idyllic confrontation but a war-no other word will serve. Perhaps back at home the two do maintain their traditional conspiratorial connection, grandparents and grandchildren; but outside, where they are equal claimants to the use of certain facilities of idle time, the issue between them stands naked: some of them are at the beginning of life and some of them each day get nearer to its end. The young ones are totally absorbed in their own demands for the attention of the world, and the old ones, far from looking on this with that natural sense of the seasons that a life properly lived should have given them, are resentful and bitter and envious. It is easy, after Freud, to be tolerant, and even admiring, of the lack of sympathy in little children. But it is quite impossible to look without fear upon the simple malice that can play in the face of a white-haired old woman-who is probably herself a mother and a grandmother-as she watches an infant struggling to take his first steps. Where does such malice come from? What can it mean?
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