Jan 03

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 4

In Brief—Musings about what the author remembers, what he sees and experiences and what is found in the scrapbook.

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“Destinations” and an Unknown Future—

My daily exercise walks down the corridor stirred me to think about what I have written and experienced since arriving at the Old Folks’ Home. It stirred me to remember life when I was young. I recall seeing a drawing in the New Yorker of people hurrying past a graveyard. The caption read only “Destinations.” It impacted me decades ago. It impacts me today.

Sign (head-on)In the first part of my Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home, I told of seeing the women residents sunning themselves. I wondered how they may have appeared in their youth because I am unable to picture them with smooth skin and filled with energy. I am unable to see the young women they once were for the wrinkles, gray hair and walkers. I’ve tried, but it’s just not there.

This reminded me of the scrapbook. And I have to admit the scrapbook holds more photos in their yellow envelopes than are pasted into the book. My laziness knows no bounds.

What can be found in the scrapbook and in those envelopes? Photos of children, photos of families, vacations, weddings, spouses, some people I don’t even remember no matter how hard I wrack my brain. And me in exuberant youth on the beach or in my patched jeans at the pottery studio or in my hippie stage…even in the office in a suit and tie.

Those old women must have been vibrant youths once not thinking of the future when Father Time would rob them of their vitality and give them sags and wrinkles in place of unblemished skin. Now they are waiting, just waiting.

The media and advertising world show us a profusion of scantily clad nubile young women (mostly), half clad young men with rippling muscles but vanishingly few older people. We are assaulted by posturing politicians or poor minorities who lie bleeding in the street never to experience wrinkles. But flawless beauties abound. Even talented older women associated with stage and screen complain of being ignored in favor young lovelies. I want to shout that whether young or middle-aged, they, too, will one day display wrinkles, sags and gray hair nothwithstanding plastic surgery, drugs, income and proper diet. They, too, may wind up behind a walker, waiting.

A talented photographer friend sent me samples of his extraordinary work, among them several photographs of nude young women in the prime of youth. Taut, flawless skin, supple bodies. The testosterone of that time responded to the nude photos as you might expect. But accompanying the photos was the rationale expressed by one of the young women: “One day in the future, I want to remind myself that I once looked like this.” Today, I see in her acknowledgement the inevitability of change. These young women of so many years ago could just as well be like the old women down the corridor here in the Old Folks’ Home.

The awareness of the passing of the years stirs my thoughts and memory as I walk the corridors of today. My fellow residents share my condition. My mirror and the putting-on of socks remind me that the one unchanging thing in the universe is change.

Wring all you can out of the all-too-brief moments you have. Father Time walks beside you and only he will decide when the waiting is over.

12 comments

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    • Brenda on January 3, 2016 at 18:00

    Use it or lose it, as they say. You are given talents. Don’t hide them. Keep hunting for the next step. You were gifted with an increditable ability to write. You’ve taken that talent and used it for many reasons. Keep on expanding those horizons–they are there.

      • Don Bay on January 4, 2016 at 10:21
        Author

      Why did it take getting old to learn a bit about reality? I appreciate the kind words about my writing ability, but why did it take so long to improve my observing ability? I’ll keep whacking away at it.

  1. We all age much better than those around us….do we not?
    We look at friends and acquaintances at or near our own age, and we say in our minds, “Gosh, I know I don’t look that old”. But then we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a shop window and little shiver runs up our spines.
    I still look at a restaurant menu and try to find the biggest most savory dish they might offer, when in fact, I’d be just as satisfied and better off by ordering from the ‘Lighter Side’.
    I announce to the ticket seller, “Two seniors please”, being quite certain that he would never have guessed my real age by looking at me.
    We all imagine ourselves someplace in of mid-thirties, I think. Don’t many of us think of ourselves as agile and full of capability….until we have to bend down and pick up our car keys from under the dresser.
    Lately I brush my teeth in front of the mirror with my shirt on. Somethings are just better left unseen.
    I’m doing my best to embrace my aging, however, and to accept the old saying….Death is certain, Life is not.
    Even though I’m positive that I’ll be the exception…… 😉

    1. someplace in OUR mid-thirties…..excuse the typo please

        • Don Bay on January 4, 2016 at 10:35
          Author

        See the second paragraph in my reply to your main comment. No harm, no foul.

      • Don Bay on January 4, 2016 at 10:32
        Author

      So much wisdom for someone so young…or at least that’s the picture of you I carry in my head. Don’t ever grow old, Dave!

      By the way, don’t ya just hate it when those helpful algorithms substitute their guess as to what you meant when you inadvertently made a typo mistake? Sometimes they’re right, but occasionally they’re wrong and mess up your whole sentence. I understood what you were saying the first time. And you hit the bull’s eye anyway.

    • Art Ulene on January 3, 2016 at 21:10

    A breathtaking view of this incredible journey we call life. Thanks, Don.

      • Don Bay on January 4, 2016 at 10:45
        Author

      I calls them as I sees them. That said, see my reply to Brenda’s comment. Why did it take me so many years to see life as it really is? Unless a younger person is involved in geriatric work, they just don’t imagine themselves getting old. The Old Folks’ Home has been an education for me. As a doctor, you have an advantage over those of us who aren’t aware. Thank goodness, you are a part of my life.

  2. Ah, the waiting. For some, no matter what they try, there really is only waiting. The mind and the body just can’t produce anything more. But it doesn’t have to be that way for many others. Living every day until you die really is possible. If we can’t run we can walk, if we can’t walk we can shuffle with energy, if we can’t do that we can read and write and think and communicate and love actively.

    I know I’m very lucky. But at least for now there is no sense of waiting. I never doubt that death will come, but that knowledge takes up very little of my energy. There’s too much of life for that. And I certainly admit to occasional very dark days, but those are few, and waiting is not part of those times.

    It really can be a matter of where we end up in the draw, and there is no criticism of those who draw unlucky cards. But I have seen too much of people who seem to me to be lucky in the draw and who end up waiting, while others draw really bad cards and keep on living anyway. We do make choices.

      • Don Bay on January 13, 2016 at 09:43
        Author

      Your comment deserves reading many times. As long as there is life and will, that’s enough.

      I have written about those down the corridor who no longer focus on life. Their days are, at most, just waiting. Without knowing what their thoughts may be, I am interpreting their passivity as “waiting.” Though I am not knowledgeable about their condition, even the care personnel who know them best say that these residents are totally unaware of the reality around them. They are simply drifting.

      You write of people who are aware of life: theirs and the lives of others. The point you make so clearly emphasizes that they have a choice as to how they use the facilities they have. Seems to me that as long as they are able to contribute to others, the best choice is to make that contribution as long as they are able.

      The caveat I put forth and believe is that only the individual herself or himself must make that choice, not a loved one or another who may believe otherwise. To allow another to make that choice negates our autonomy.

  3. Your caveat to my comment is vital. Yes, only they must have that choice.

      • Don Bay on January 13, 2016 at 13:09
        Author

      To say I agree is to gild the lily. Thanks for your comment.

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