Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Golden Age ...

(Disclaimer: If this post makes no sense, pretend it does anyway. It's been a long-ass day. I just stopped working for the night and I have a trans-Atlantic call at 8 a.m. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I have a blog to write!)

Today I had a long-overdue appointment with my eye doctor. Just a check up. (My eyes, oddly, are slightly better then they were last time.)

A group of people, including myself, boarded the elevator in the professional building, and the door closed, then opened again. A woman had pushed the button. "Going up?" I asked, half joking, as there was no other way to go.

"Yes," she said, getting on. We all got off at the same floor, and the woman headed into the office I was visiting. I followed her in.

She sat down next to an older woman with short grey hair. The older woman wore grey stirrup pants and a big grey sweater. I think she was about 5'2". She looked small in her chair. I wondered about the relationship between the two women. Was the elevator woman this older woman's granddaughter? Aide? Friend?

A tech called the older woman's name, and both women headed toward her. "Hi," said the older woman to the tech.

I was called back soon after. George, my tech, ran through the usual tests, put the drops in my eyes to dialate my pupils and make me look like a lemur. But the drops take 15 minutes to work their weird magic, and he needed the room for another patient, so he showed me to an interior waiting area. I sat down and realized I was sitting across from the pair of women.

Elevator Woman got up to get coffee from the pot on the table next to me. She offered Older Woman coffee or water. "Water," chose Older Woman. "Just half. You don't have to fill it." It was a small cup.

I tried reading a magazine, but the anesthesia in my eyes was making that a chore, so I gave up and listened to Older Woman talking to Elevator Woman. I was astonished to learn that Older Woman is 95. I truly never would have guessed that she's that old, though Older Woman's hearing is starting to fade. I knew this because Elevator Woman had to repeat herself often, and Older Woman answered in a rather loud voice.

Somehow, the conversation led Older Woman to start singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" in a voice that you and I would consider loud for a doctor's office, but which, with her diminished hearing, probably sounded just right.

Elevator Woman commented that she was singing a little loud. But nobody around seemed to mind. I smiled. I thought it was sweet. And I wished I had the courage to sing a song in public just because it popped into my head.

And then, almost immediately after finishing her song, Older Woman started to cry.

I reached into my purse and caught Elevator Woman's eye. "Does she need a Kleenex?" I asked.

"No, she has one. She lost her nephew last year," she explained, stroking Older Woman's hair. "It's been really hard on her."

I welled up. (I'm welling up now.) It must be amazing to live such a long life, to see the course of history change dramatically. But it must be so hard to live such a long life and lose so many people along the way.

Older Woman regained her composure quickly. At one point, she was discussing her shoes and those of Elevator Woman. She also announced that she doesn't care if she's not supposed to wear white socks with her black shoes. Good for her. At 95, appropriate socks should not be top of mind.

A tech appeared to escort them into an exam room. Elevator Woman gathered their things then stepped to the garbage can near me to throw away their cups. Older Woman got up - very easily, I might add - and before following the tech, flashed me a smile ... and a peace sign.

I hope I'm that cool when I'm 95. And I hope I have someone as wonderful as Elevator Woman to sit with me when I go to the doctor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your observations really hit a chord with me. I am fortunate to have three grandparents of that age and like "Older Woman" they have long-ago abandoned caring about whether their socks match their shoes (or any other part of their outfit, for that matter). I believe that is one of the great blessings that comes from old age (and tragedy) ~ gaining the perspective of what truly matters in life. I hope I find it through the former rather than the latter. Unfortunately, living to a ripe old age does mean that you will likely see many close friends and family pass before you. We all wish to live a long life... but the rewards are sometimes bittersweet.

12:23 PM  

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