Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ordinary Oldens

Old people are interesting. I say this because it is obvious that they have been through a lot--they look it, and sometimes they act it. And yet, so frequently, they are boring. I don't mean this as an insult, just a fact. I am chauffer for my boss's husband, who is 92, not "allowed" to drive, and is a formed Medical Doctor. I know he has a billion exciting stories to tell me, but instead we are constantly repeating: "Nice day," "too much rain," "how was your weekend?" It's very simple and tedious. I can stand tedious, much to my amazement, eight hours a day for seven hours a week. It doesn't bother me too much. (I think this is because the "farm" and his very active wife make up for the slow-going calm that he gives off.)

What I really want to write about is how old people change physically. Carlene is 72 now. A couple of years ago, she was sitting in her armchair, wiping up a line of blood on the back of her hand, when she turned to me and said, "I hate getting old. Your skin gets as thin as paper." She can't hear me when I talk to her. "You need to speak up! I can't hear you goddammit!" But Tom (her husband) will just quietly repeat what he's said two or three times until you realize he can't hear you. It's all very strange to me.

Walking slowly is good exercise: I've learned this from weeks of walking next to Tom while he's going up or down the steep driveway, foot by foot, shuffling-like, like his knees hurt maybe, but his back is hunched too. It pushes my legs into override. I have to actually feel my thigh muscles as they move up and down and around, while walking...walking fast is so much easier. We can stretch and ignore any pain, any aches, any anything. The slower one moves, the more one notices. I notice that the dogs won't bark at you if you move as slow as Tom does. I notice that my breathing isn't quite as labored, and I don't feel as rushed as I was just a second ago.

It makes me wish that the ability to slow down wasn't wasted on the old. I want some calmness too!

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