Jordan and Jacob went to Bag It! Night at our church tonight, where we load backpacks with school supplies and add appropriate size clothing for needy kids. I was delighted when I heard they were going, because I want to be more involved in the church beyond sitting in a pew every Sunday. So I was dressed and ready to go when Jordan came out for a quick glass of wine. She said she’d find me a place to sit, and I replied that I thought surely there was something constructive I could do seated at a table. She said no. Everything is laid out in piles, and you take your list and a plastic bag and walk around collecting things. A lot of walking which, of course, I can’t do. She thought I wanted to go watch, and she thought that was sweet.
Sweet or no, I did not want to be a spectator. I think that’s part of ageism, not aging. Senior citizens are sidelined to watch, not participate, and I didn’t want to be in that position. I don’t want, at my age, to watch life go by me. I want to be part of it. So I’ll just have to find another way to put my talents to work for the church. I stayed home, defrosted some leftover turkey stuffing and gravy, and had chocolate for dessert.
Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s age. It is, however, an insidious thing that can make a person feel older. We take our signals from those around us, and if they treat us as elderly, we feel that way. I think nine times out of ten, it’s unconscious. In an effort to be protective, friends and family sideline a person. I see it happening to me, even with the best of intentions. Jordan and a neighbor talked last night about whether I would do well on a cross-country railroad trip—navigating the links between cars, etc. Without meaning to, they talked as though I were not in the room. They had the best of intentions—seeing that I was safe, comfortable, and happy, but I wasn’t part of it. I was a spectator.
Three small errands today—the cleaners, the podiatrist, and the TCU hearing aid clinic—were my way of saying, “Hey! I’m still an active part of life.” I shared a good laugh with the owner of the cleaners, the podiatrist and I had a jolly conversation about good, old-fashioned, practical medicine, and the admin assistant at the clinic talked with me about falls. She called me a tough lady, which boosted my ego greatly, in spite of my ghastly appearance. If I had asked Jordan to do those errands, which she doesn’t have time for, I’d have missed all that interaction. The day may come, but by golly it isn’t here yet, and I’m not ready for the sidelines.
Speaking of sitting, I have a rollator, a walker with a seat, that I use all day everyday in the cottage. As much as possible, I use it as a walker. But although it firmly warns against sitting in it while moving, I do that a lot too. How else would I carry dishes from kitchen to desk and back? Cook? Carry clothes around? There are countless chores that no one thinks about that I can’t do walking. So it’s a mainstay of my independence.
We put a new seat on it last night—at least the sixth seat in three years. And before I went to bed, I heard the seat crack. It’s simply padding over a cheap piece of plywood. I tried so hard to be careful, but sitting in it at the bathroom sink, I reached to turn on the water and heard that unmistakable sound. Heard minor versions of it throughout rest of the evening. So I announced this time that instead of saying Judy must be careful, we were going to say that the rollator, a lightweight version, is simply not sturdy enough to do what I need it to do. Colin and I are going to go someday soon (I hope) to a store that sells them, talk with what I hope will be a knowledgeable salesperson about what I need. And we’re going to the Apple store to find out why my watch didn’t alert people when I fell. All part of keeping me off the sidelines.
Sweet dreams, everyone!