It's inevitable. We will all grow old. Unless something happens, an accident or health problem, most of us will age and our bodies will wrinkle, our hearing may go, the eyes need glasses, the bones become brittle... When you look at an old person, I mean really old, like 80+, what do you see? Do you just see an old woman or man, or do you see a person that was once young and vibrant but now old?
My dad had an "old moment" not too long ago. He is 61 which is not really old now that I am 33. Didn't our parents seem old when we were kids? Then as we get older and we are the age our parents were when they had kids, we feel quite young, thank you very much! But anyway, my dad saw a grapefruit just above his head in a tree. He looked at it and felt confident he would be able to jump up and reach it with no trouble. He jumped and missed. He jumped again and stretched his arm out as far as he could and missed again. He tried again and his fingertips grazed against the bottom of the grapefruit. He couldn't get it. His mind said he could do it, but his body wouldn't co-operate. He told me that in his younger days, he would have easily gotten it with a simple jump, but his body will no longer perform that way.
My dad was, to me, the strongest man I have ever known. He was always active and athletic, he was a wrestler in school and danced. Mom told me once that he had a beautiful body, lean and muscular, and he did, too. He tanned easily when he worked outside, and he has a great laugh with wide teeth, the teeth that all his brothers and sisters have, that my sister and cousins inherited and I didn't get. He was a welder and lifted heavy steel and iron and other metal. I helped him once in awhile and he would ask me to hold a bar in place and it took all I had to keep it there, but dad made it look so light. Once, Hubby and I were installing a fence and we used t-bar poles and had to bang it into the ground. Hubby and I struggled and heaved a heavy sledgehammer over and over against the top of the t-bars. It took us all morning and most of the afternoon to hammer in about 20 poles. Dad showed up, and using a blocked off pipe for banging t-bars into the ground, hammered the last 15 in under a hour. We were in awe of my dad's strength.
Now, in the last couple of years or so, my Dad has complained of aches and pains. Past injuries have come back to haunt him. A fall off a ladder more than 25 years ago has come back as lower back and elbow pain. His bad knees crack and pop and he cannot kneel for long periods of time. He had to force himself to retire because he couldn't keep up with welding and contorting his body to fit into awkward places and weld a joint while supporting heavy weight at the same time. He and his wife moved to a warmer climate where the cold doesn't seep into his bones and cause him more pain. He had to give up bowling and then golfing because of the twists the body does while throwing the bowling ball and swinging the golf club.
I heard my dad tell me of his aches and pains but didn't really understand. I sympathized but I didn't empathize. But now, as I age myself and I have a few aches that take longer to fade away than it used to, I take longer to bounce back from a twisted ankle, a bruise lingers, I understand a little bit more about aging. I understand the frustration older people feel, their minds willing but their bodies can't. Or their bodies willing but the mind knows: better not or you're going to pay the price tomorrow. How an older person must feel, their minds still feeling as young as ever, but darn it, if they can't see the newspaper unless they hold it 3 feet away, or that pesky hip that keeps popping out when they dance the two-step. To look in the mirror and see a white-haired old lady staring back, wondering where the young girl went. How did the time fly away so fast and why don't the young 'uns put down their beeping noise-boxes and come and visit? To see their children grow up and away, though some may stay, here but not here.
I don't have any grandparents left, they all died when I was young. I was lucky enough to meet Hubby's Grandmothers but both passed away before we had the girls. I want to make sure that our girls get to know their grandparents, to love being with them and to talk with them. I mean really talk, ask them questions about their own childhoods and what it was like when they had us as kids. I want my girls to have compassion for the older folks and to respect them, treat them with kindness and lend an ear. I admit, I tend to shy away from the older folks, not because I don't want to be around them, but I find it hard to understand gravel-ly voices and I struggle to lip read wrinkled mouths and tooth-less words. I need to find me some old deaf people and get to know them, find out what their lives were like, lend my eyes to their hands, full of stories to tell.