In growing older, how much of a delicate process is it? As the numbers climb, is it a time to get cynical about what our future might hold and be mournful about what we hadn’t accomplished in younger years? What is each generation supposed to think about growing older? Certainly the kids at the school where I serve as a teacher’s aide think nothing of approaching their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and above. They’re not supposed to. That time will come one day, but it’s not for them in these quick teenage moments. What they think of those men and women who, to them, currently occupy unheard of age ranges would certainly make an interesting analysis, but presumably it’s likely not much different from my age group, in striving to accomplish what we want in our lives, regaining a young spirit in the process or feeling old and defeated. It depends on the future careers and what plans we harbor and which ones aren’t in our control.
“Deeper Than Y”, then, is modern-day poetry about being older. Who we are now and what we are inexorably changes when our joints, gait, and mannerisms slow down so the clock can tick louder. Some wait for the clock to stop. Others, like the swimming class at the Vanderbilt YMCA in New York City, are as active as possible, appreciative of the class, with different body parts moving in the water that don’t do so well on dry ground. For many of these folks, elder life is not about wiling away the days until dying, but rather living what’s left in their own way.
The seven men and women who make up this class create deep consideration of our own lives. Gerty, a writer of novels and plays whose services are desperately needed in today’s barren market of badly-written romance novels, loves where she is and what she’s doing. She’s not such a prude about her writing and proudly states that in the words she types on her electric writer, she can be whatever age she likes. Ira, formerly a clinical psychologist, explains that he studied the psychological side of brain function to extents that his colleagues hadn’t yet considered. Andrew and Mel, together for 36 years, have worked their own unique jobs, Andrew at a publishing house and Mel as a printing salesman for two or three upscale printing companies. Dorothy was once a working actress and singer and states that even though she didn’t achieve the high pinnacle of fame, she was just grateful to be working. Ronni & Cy Beer have been married for years (Cy’s line of work was making jeans for fat men), while Anne was a social worker for people that were her age.
Listening to all their stories isn’t only a meditation on living our lives the best way we can while we have billions of breaths to spare, but in memories that guide us through different times, not only for them but also New York City, especially in Dorothy’s case, where she was quite taken with NYC when she arrived. Moreso for all of them, it’s an opportunity to reflect on their own stage in life, where they currently are, whether they’re happy with who they are now, and whether there are any regrets.
When we’re young, age is just a number. Getting older, age becomes more prominent. What we do in between and in the later years is extremely important. All seven souls have done what they have desired and even if there is a regret or two, they have done well to talk candidly about their ways of life, a good whap on the head for a society so obsessed with staying young. The beauty in growing older is trying hard to do what we feel needs to be done and the swimming class of “Deeper Than Y” is indeed beautiful, and Ilona and Lane Siller warmly and lovingly capture it all.