Old age took Florence by surprise, and she’s not happy about it.
Ninety-two years old and she’s still surprised when she’s out at a restaurant and looks around to see she’s the oldest person there. When she spots a walker pushed up against a wall, she’ll keep watch until it’s retrieved so she can pin an age to the poor sucker who has to use it, and it’s almost always someone younger than herself. She’ll shake her head in disbelief and claim once again, “I’m the oldest person here.”
The reason age is such a concern to her is that she’s running low on friends who are still alive and active.
Her social circle, once enormous, is now as tiny as a period at the end of a sentence.
I’ve been filling in lately, and having a good time. I’m a “kid” in this group, and I’m north of eighty. If you want to feel young again, find some older friends.
There’s four of us; Florence, Louise, Judith and me. I feel blessed to be included. Flo, Louise, and Judy are girlhood friends, eighty-five + years of being besties. I’m not under any delusions that being the only one of us who can still drive at night gave me an instant in. But, I do like to think I’m accepted because of my personality.
Notice how I used the word “accepted” when talking about joining a small circle of friends? It’s a throwback to junior high when one worries about fitting in and being popular. The connection here is that even though this trio of senior citizens is way past their prime, the aura of being “cool” does not fade. “Square” does not apply.
Last Wednesday, we were out for an early bird dinner at Olive Garden. An older woman approached the table, “Hello, Judy – good to see you, how have you been?”
The conversation that followed had more than a few inquiries like, “Is [fill in the blank] still alive?” The answer was almost always “no” with an occasional “yes, but…he/she isn’t doing well.”
After the woman went back to the table where her caregiver sat waiting (noted by my three friends), a new conversation would begin about the treasure trove of information this chance meeting offered.
Running into someone from the past at a restaurant, beauty parlor, or a funeral is always a good day.
As for my friends and me, every day is not a good day. There’s blood pressure spikes, diabetes, diarrhea, and other ailments that hit you when your body gets old and your parts are wearing out.
Flo gets depressed because she’s losing her independence. Louise is worried she’ll fall and that’ll be the end of her. Judy knows she gets confused and forgetful. Is this the start of losing her mind?
But the one constant for these three amazing women is their enjoyment of life, facing their morality without fear.
“I’ve lived a very good life.” Says Louise. “No one had it as good as me. When I go, I go.”
We all feel the same way. We talk about end-of-life in practical terms. Judy wants to go before she’s at the dribble cup stage. Flo doesn’t want to be a burden to her children and would appreciate a nice quick exit anytime God is ready. Louise says when the day comes, she can’t get up and get her own ice cream from the freezer; she’ll go gratefully.
But it doesn’t usually work that way. One day you find that you’ve wet yourself, and you’re humiliated.
“Take me now, God; I can’t live like this.”
But you do. You stuff yourself with the maxi pads you find under the sink, and you go to Walgreens to buy a jumbo pack of pull-ups. You’ve entered the next stage for which you are unprepared and unready. Yet, you’re up to the challenge, and you make the best of it.
Thank God for your family. Thank God for your friends. Regardless of age or circumstances, we are all in this boat together. The ocean is large, and the horizons far-reaching. Above us is sky and above that is space, and beyond that, a place we call heaven.
All the while on planet earth, we are four old ladies laughing, lunching, and loving. We’re waiting patiently for the next thing to happen – out of our control, but surely God’s most excellent plan.