It could be you one day

I met an elderly man today. He had come to out-patients for one of years of appointments in cardiology, nephrology and the eye unit. He had a sparkle in his eye, stains on his shirt and his trouser fastenings were quite suspect, but I liked him. He chatted to me about his ailments and I helped him to sort through his paperwork amongst which was a poem. I tried to peep at it but couldn’t quite see, and after a while he offered it to me, saying that it was about the ageing process and he had ‘adapted’ it to include bits about his health. You can Google the original, it’s called ‘The shape I’m in’and each stanza ends with those words.

I could see behind him that someone was shifting from foot to foot, a young medic who probably hadn’t yet been on a geriatric ward. Now, whenever someone gets impatient like that it makes me slow down even more (one day I will regret it because I do it when driving with some idiot on my bumper) so I made the paper shuffling look more professional for a few minutes. Once I’d had my game, I asked Mr so ‘n’ so if he minded holding on while I dealt with the next person. He didn’t of course; and when I’d finished with Dr Shifty, he was thrilled to have a captive audience.

We talked about poetry, pills, the country bus service and that although he had been to most departments for treatment over the years, he still had most of his brain cells. I told him he was doing well as most of mine seem to taken the low road when I took the high. It was good timing, I had a quiet spell and could indulge him, but confess I had to pinch myself a couple of times when I realised I was losing focus.

His conversation with me was possibly the longest he’d had for a while but it cost me nothing and do you know what? He was good fun and I really hope that I get to see him again. I can’t help wondering how my life will be when I’m his age in I don’t know, twenty or twenty five years. Will I be lonely? Invisible? Will my toe nails be unkempt because I can’t reach them? Will I have stains on my clothes because my vision isn’t sharp enough to tell? At the moment I plan to be outrageously eccentric, but will I be able to make that choice or will it just happen to me?


12 thoughts on “It could be you one day

  1. Loved it Gilly! It’s good to see you making use of everyday experiences to write about. I like your character too and how you make him so real with your description. I can just picture him sharing his prize poem with you! More please!

  2. Good reblog! Loneliness is often the hardest thing to bear as you grow older. And the fear of spending years having to visit the GP or the hospital is something I really hope is not going to happen to me as it did my mother.

  3. Humbling to read your tale Gilly, and be reminded to have empathy and respect for older people. Aging is such an unreliable process! Holding on to quality of life when the body starts packing up.

  4. Thanks for the reblog, Gilly. Watching my old mum and her difficulties with coping, I have been asking myself the same questions. After 35 years in a university clinic, I can underline every word of yours.

  5. A wonderful story and it happens all too often that there are those such as this gentleman that have no one to look out for them to see if help is needed. My own father is 94 and has dementia but has my sister to make sure that he is looking up to snuff and even takes him to see someone who trims his toe nails for him as quite frankly, dad isn’t concerned with the details any longer. He is quite happy to talk to me but if he forgets some things then for him that is fine. This is a very poignant story and a testament to this man’s will to endure and that his mind is so very sharp yet. I enjoyed reading about him and what an honor that you could listen to him for just a little while.

  6. A very touching piece, Gilly. Who knows what the future will bring for each of us as we enter into the final aging process? I’m glad you were able and willing to give him some time and make him feel relevant again. I think so many old people must imagine that they’re invisible to younger people, especially strangers. 😘

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