Growing Old

All I could see was the top of her silvery-blue hair. She was creeping her boat of a car inch by inch into the parking spot, like a barge navigating its way on a canal. I sighed and glanced at the time. So far she had been working on this arduous task for three minutes. Several cars had lined up behind mine.

In true New York fashion, someone laid on their horn. Silvery-Blue Hair’s car came to an abrupt halt and she looked in her rear view mirror, confused. I should have given her an encouraging smile, but I too am a New Yorker, so all I did was raise my eyebrows hoping she could read my thoughts of, “C’mon lady!”

Silvery-Blue Hair faced forward. The car moved a millimeter. Progress was being made! I could almost fit my car around hers if she would just –

Wait! Oh no! What was she doing? Why were her reverse lights on? It doesn’t need to be straight honey! Just. Park. Your. Car.

The jerk laid on his horn a second time. Someone else joined in. This time, Silvery-Blue Hair was not daunted. She was too focused – too determined – to get her Buick Lesabre in the spot. Her little hands were putting the car’s power steering to the test. Suddenly, the car lurched forward and she turned off the engine.

Hurray! I stepped on the gas and sped past her, only to stop behind another car.  This time an elderly man was reversing out of a spot.  Where was I? On the set of Cocoon? Painstakingly, the gentleman eased his car backwards. He looked straight ahead, as though he was assuming – trusting- other drivers to give him the right of way. We did of course, but not without groaning, throwing our arms up in the air, or banging our foreheads on our steering wheels.

At last, he was out of his spot and gliding ahead. He looked ridiculously small in such a huge car, his hands positioned at ten and two. I was now able to drive around him, and I did so deftly. Wasn’t I just the coolest, spunkiest driver ever?

Then it struck me. Decades ago, Silvery-Blue Hair could have been me: impatient, patronizing in thought, in a hurry to run to the grocery store before having to shuttle her children to an activity. Likewise, the elderly man could have been just like my husband: working long hours to provide for his family, young, strong and handsome, driving a sporty car with ease.

All this meant, of course, that someday we would be them: frail, uncertain, and slow. In a few decades, I could be trying to maneuver my car (a car that used to be easier to drive) into parking spots that now seemed much too small – while irritable, young drivers like myself beeped their horns and rolled their eyes. I was ashamed.

Feeling sentimental, later that day I asked my ten year old daughter if she would take care of me when I was old.  Suddenly, the idea of growing old seemed very near and real.  I pictured my daughter as she is now, only taller, cradling my arm as she eases me into the passenger seat of her car.

My daughter was quiet for a moment before answering.

“I’ll be too busy with my own family to take care of you,” she said, “but don’t worry. I’ll visit you in the nursing home … as long as we’re not on vacation.”

Move over Silvery-Blue Hair lady, I just may need a ride.

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15 thoughts on “Growing Old

  1. Older people definitely have a slow way about themselves — be it parking a car or strolling through the grocery store. Some of it might be because they are not so reactionary as they were 20-30 years ago. But it might also be because they have gained enough wisdom to not give a damn. Good for them. Now, lay off the horn!

  2. Haha! How old is your daughter? Cruel thing 😉 I always think of this when I am frustrated by an older person on the road… that someday I will be them and the world will seem far too loud and fast for my liking. It’s incredible to think of how many things have changed in their lifetime. …

    • She is ten and brutally honest. No sugar coating on her part! Whenever I observe the elderly I think, “Wow, God willing ~ someday that will be me!” and I am sure I’ll expect everyone to be kind and patient as I take forever to climb the stairs. Yet, how can I expect everyone to be patient when I am currently impatient?

  3. The older generation is my weak spot – they get all of my respect and if I can help, I do. They know so much more than us, they’ve been there, done that, and their focus is on far more important matters. I feel lucky that I still have one Grandmother living. She’s 97 and sharp, her back hurts a little but she says “you’ve got to expect that at my age.” Maybe that and the impatient and unfledged.
    Great post!

    • Thank you for the great comment!

      One thing China has on us is their respect for the aged. They treat their elderly with great respect – while our country favors youth and beauty (that is fleeting and temporary).

      I am so happy your Grandmother “only” has a little back pain at 97. That is wonderful. I do hope you inherit her genes!

  4. Yikes–kids can be so brutal can’t they? In one breath I chuckled at her comment. The next breath I know that her statement is only too true for many oldsters. I’m hoping that my lifelong soft spot for old people has rubbed off on my kids and they’ll work in a visit before they go on vacation. 🙂

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