What remains with the remains, when your future is far shorter than its past. Do you cue Peggy Lee’s, singing “Is That All There Is” or Frank singing to himself, “My Way?”
Aging. Most try to hide it as though it can be protected and others just let that Turkey neck take its course. All proudly displaying life’s earned wrinkles. Facial wrinkles? I thought of botox for myself until a dermatologist told me that as a priest, “No one would know what you’re feeling!” I didn’t have it done.
They are so proud of their many years when proudly saying, “I’m 86-and-a-half” as a youngster of soon-to-be-five says, “I’m 4-and-a-half.” Recall takes a few seconds (or longer). The person they met this morning at breakfast isn’t recalled but their friend of fifty years is instantly in sight, complete with memorable stories containing all its details. And talk about details! “Was that in 1941 or 42?” says the senior in the middle of an exciting remembrance. I think to myself that a year or two between friends doesn’t really matter, but I let the recalling pause pick a year. (That year may very well change at the conclusion of his/her story.)
They walk slower. It often takes three tries to get off the chair. Their appetite for food hasn’t changed (but watch your salt intake!) and for so many, their thirst for life, learning and spirituality has only been heightened. A 90-year-old came to my office and said that she’s Catholic but hasn’t practiced for many years. “What do I need to do?” I said, “You come to Mass.” She smiled at me as though some initiation was missing. I didn’t see her at Mass for years but subbing at Alexian Village now, I see her every Sunday. Silent but present in her 96th year.
They remember when wars were fought for a nation instead of presidents. They remember when a sports coat or dress were worn for religious services instead of looking like you’re going to a baseball game. With failing health amid pains, they gladly share that, “I’m fine, but thanks for asking.”
They hoard more they need or admit, they’re sad when that granddaughter’s promised call on their birthday was missed but only remark, ”She’s so busy.” The bottles of wine or whiskey are in a secret cabinet as well as those sleeping pills, “That my doctor told me to take.” Yeah, right.
They want three things, whereas a younger person wants only two of the three. Older adults want to be understood, appreciated and remembered. Young people are too young to care about of the last one.
Older adults want a piece of you, every single day. A part of your ear to hear about their bowel or bladder experience the previous day (I learned that eating with older adults includes this topic), a piece of your smile that tells them to continue living as best they can, a part of your nose that smells behind the spoken word about something going on in their lives that they’re not sharing, a small step to walk with them through lost best friends or the pet that seemed to mean more to them than their son or daughter, and a mouth that only speaks encouraging, thoughtful words along with a hint of humor to lighten up even the gravest of situations.
Older adults. You gotta love ‘em. They are showing us, as best they can, what it means to continue growing and how we may very well act and behave if we reach their lucky old age.