In the Age of Kardashians, when fame for fame’s sake is the ultimate ideal, it’s a subversive act to remind people that they will grow old and die.
And that’s if they’re lucky, because no one’s guaranteed the chance to grow old.
I’ve had a wonderful month that involved hanging out with people in their 90s.
First, photographer Thomas Wells and I spent time with 95-year-old Bill Flewellen, a Tupelo resident who transformed his daughter’s yard into a garden, the perfect place to enjoy a twilight martini.
It was photographer Lauren Wood’s turn next, when we traveled up to New Site to take part in the 75th wedding anniversary of Holley and Hazel Sparks. He’s 94 and she’s 92, and they told us about picking cotton, building rockets and making a life together.
This past week, photographer Adam Robison and I were invited to go to Nettleton to see Ruby Harris. The 94-year-old spent two months crocheting the Last Supper. It’s amazingly intricate work.
The photographers and I enjoyed our visits, which goes a long way toward explaining why we work at the Mighty Daily Journal: We always like it when people have good stories to tell.
But it’s been an odd run, and probably a coincidence, to meet all four in a row like that, when I’ve gone long stretches of time without such a meeting.
Even with my recent visits, I doubt I would’ve thought about the Age of Kardashians and the fear of growing old without help.
The other night I went on Netflix to watch “Derek,” a seven-episode British import written and directed by Ricky Gervais.
He created “The Office,” and he’s also known for mean-spirited jokes about celebrities at The Golden Globes.
Gervais isn’t the first person you’d expect to produce an engaging, sentimental story about a mentally challenged man who works at an old folks home.
Derek, played by Gervais, is a delightful man who knows he’s not good-looking or clever, but he is kind so that will have to be enough for him.
The show is about Derek being himself and how those around him react. It’s surprisingly touching, even with occasional crude language and uncomfortable moments. I would argue those rough elements give the show more heart, not less.
Pop culture likes to pretend that reality doesn’t exist, which is probably why Gervais created “Derek.” It is a sweet but in-your-face reminder of the triumphs and struggles of regular people and the inescapable truth that gives those triumphs and struggles meaning.
Maybe people in Northeast Mississippi are smarter than most. Maybe folks in these parts know the circle of life, their place in it and their ultimate destination with no need for reminders.
But count me among those who need reminders. Luckily for me, I’ve heard so many good stories this past month. Man, have I heard stories.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.