In Brief—The author’s view and experiences of vibrant youth and the reality of the passage of time and arrival of old age.
Is This the Wisdom that was Promised?—
As I wheel my walker past the aged, bent and white-haired old women sitting quietly in the sun behind their own walkers, I often wonder what they were like sixty years ago. Did they think of themselves as attractive? Were they active? Were they vital and aware? But then I reflect on how Father Time has afflicted me with my own wrinkles, my thin parchment-like skin, my grey hair and shuffling gait. How have so many years raced past without being noticed? The others probably feel the same way.
Every morning after struggling through my customary routine, I pause in opening the blinds to admire the photograph of my wife as she looked in 1980. Beautiful with smooth skin, sparkling eyes and full lips curved in that small smile that belied the tragic loss of her mother at far too young an age.
Now she comes to visit me at what I refer to as the Old Folks’ Home. Though still lovely, she shows the passage of the years too quickly gone. I notice the emergent wrinkles around those sparkling eyes that now need glasses. I notice the lines that have deepened beside that warming smile, the small sags of once-firm muscles. The love-of-my-life is showing the same signs that affect all of us who have managed to survive what life has brought us. And shining through it all is what we call “love” without really being able to define it.
The Old Folks’ Home—
The building is relatively new. The apartments are fresh and spacious enough for their physically-limited occupants. The apartments are furnished by the residents or their families to assure that a measure of the comfort of home is assured. The staff is friendly and helpful. The two regular nurses are occasionally seen albeit one is bull-headed and too impressed with her education. The staff is learning how to feed someone through a tube while also feeding the other residents in the customary fashion.
The residents are mostly women and range in age between 75 and perhaps slightly over 90. Some suffer—if that is the right word—from various stages of dementia. All are simply old. “Warehousing” comes readily to mind. Comfortable Swedish warehousing, but still separate and apart from society. Maybe that is the future of advanced societies.
A Typical Day—
What is a day in the Old Folks’ Home like? Most of the residents stay in their rooms. Some of them—even a couple of the dementia patients—sit in the dayroom and watch TV or eat there at meal times. Particularly if the sun is shining or it’s not raining, a few of the residents will sit in the sun, others may get some exercise behind their walkers, as I do. A few may pick and eat the seasonal black currant berries growing on the bushes at the back of the spacious yard. I used to love the taste of black currants, but inability to swallow put the cork in that bottle. The ones outdoors seem to be the same residents every time I’m out exercising. The ones watching TV seem to be a separate small group, but since my hearing is lousy and the shows are usually inane, I’m not one of that group.
I can’t say what goes on outside my closed door each day, but I can report on my activities. Much of the time, I sit at the computer reading the news, emailing friends, writing blog pieces or reading courtesy of an informed friend who feeds my obsession and my Kindle. Composing and writing blog pieces is occasionally harder as my memory sometimes misses a beat, but sometimes the words flow like a river after a hard rain. It helps to think while I’m lying quietly on my narrow bed while being fed.
My wife and the family Sheltie visit often, the latter gladly accepting the scratches of staff and residents, the former lighting the lives of all in the corridor. I happily accept the love and latest news. Gone from once familiar surroundings but not from the heart. They don’t visit every day, but often enough. The other residents and staff haven’t complained yet about the barking as the dog retrieves the ball I toss. I suspect they may even enjoy the change.
That’s life in the Old Folks’ Home. And as always, the one unchanging thing in the universe is change.