Working for a woman who is quite a bit older than I am makes for a rather surreal experience. I am struggling with age-related issues, or at least I think I am — the bum knee could be have come about from a simple injury, though I tend to think the poor thing is feeling its age. Even if my complaints don’t stem from age, I can tell I am slowing down — I don’t think as quickly as I once did, don’t move as fast as I once did, don’t make eye-brain connections instantly the way I once did. I also have to be more careful because of that lack of instantaneousness since danger can lurk in the lag time. If I remember correctly, I don’t I remember as well as I used to, either, though that could be a lack of attention rather than a memory issue. I do think I can still connect the dots as well as ever — i.e.: see the big picture from a scattering of images, draw conclusions from data presented — perhaps even better than ever since I’ve seen many more “dots” in my lifetime than I did when I was younger.
Very little if any of this “decline” is apparent to others. The few people I’ve known for many years are also slowing a bit, so my aging wouldn’t show up in relation to theirs. Most people, however, I’ve only met in the last year or two, so they wouldn’t be able to see those subtle long-term signs of aging. They can, of course, see the lines in my face and my graying hair, but those outward signs don’t show my true age; apparently, all things considered, I still seem younger than I am.
But whatever the truth, I am creeping up on the age where I will no longer be able to pretend that “elderly” only applies to others.
And yet, while all this growing into elderliness is happening, the woman I am caring for insists that I am still “just a kid.”
From her perspective, I am just a kid. Even though I often use a trekking pole to help navigate the decaying sidewalks (and sometimes use two when I walk to give me a full-body workout) and even though my knees stiffen when I sit too long, I can still get around easily, can still take care of myself, have no great dependence on doctors or medicines, can handle my own finances. Admittedly, I have no children to take those responsibilities from me — I know people my age and even younger who need one of their offspring to live with them and help them out, so my independence can be one of necessity rather than ability.
But I don’t think so. (Unless, of course, I am connecting the dots wrong and creating a false picture).
I try to take good care of myself, since what I do now will help me in those later years when no one, by any stretch of the imagination, will be able to think of me as “just a kid.” Unfortunately, too often, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And the rest of the time, the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.
At least, if nothing else, I am back to walking a bit — nowhere near what I once did, but still, a mile and a half is not bad when one has a wonky knee. I have a tendency to want to do too much, and then I have to backtrack, so I am erring on the side of “not enough”. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get back to where I was a few months ago. I’ve noticed that a never-healed injury or a badly healed one is the first step into a serious decline, but I think that comes in later years rather than when one is still “just a kid.”
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator