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?