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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Father Time Is My Peer

By Jeanne Waite Follett of Gullible's Travels

My past caught up with my future today. Like the ghosts of Christmas Past and Future in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, shades of the future yanked my head around, looked me square in the eyes and got my attention.

All around me were devices that portended an ominous future, devices that threatened to one day become necessities.

Walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen bottles and dialysis equipment whispered nasty little threats. Extra-wide doors mocked my energetic steps down the hallway. “Someday,” they seemed to say, “Some day you’ll pass though here.”

I ignored their innuendos, shook my head at the wheelchair that intimated it had my name on it.

I strolled down the corridor of the Anchorage Pioneer Home losing myself in the black-and-white enlarged photographs of Anchorage in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. My time, the time of my youth, when I lived in this frontier city.

My body was in the corridor of this senior retirement home but the rest of me was in 1960. That was the year I graduated from Anchorage High School. With me in the hallway were several members of that graduating class. We were there to visit with yet another classmate, Freddie, who had recently moved into the Pioneer Home after a stroke left her confined to a wheelchair.

Judy brought Christmas to Freddie today. Along with four of us other classmates, she had homemade fudge, a lovely pastel hummingbird with iris figurine and a jovial Santa who rocked his rocking chair at break-neck speed.

We followed Freddie in her wheelchair to the fifth floor dining hall where the noon meal was about to be served. A gentleman seated next to her introduced himself as Meryl and with a shy, abashed smile said, “We’re engaged.”

He cut up Freddie’s piece of luncheon chicken, helped her readjust her position in her wheelchair and teasingly pulled her gently back and forth. He said the wedding date was up to Freddie.

She blushed as she smiled and began to laugh deep, happy laughs, laughs that didn’t want to end.

I saw silent communication between the two of them, how he watched over her and anticipated her needs and the easy familiarity of a couple in love.

Suddenly a long line of schoolchildren, all dressed up in black and white, entered stage left and lined up in rows in front of the piano. As they sang several holiday songs for the elders, I looked at the aged faces of the residents and thought I could see young minds savoring priceless memories.

We left the home and gathered in a coffee shop a few miles away. Seated there, we were surrounded by patrons working on laptops, huge bags of coffee beans, oak tables and blackboard menus listing coffee drinks never imagined five decades ago.

We talked about classmates who have moved away, of iconic buildings in this town that are in danger of demolition, and laughed about long-ago crushes on sweet high school boys.

We joked about reserving a wing of the Pioneer Home for our whole class, and turning it into the I Street Party House. I spoke of a TIA - a mini stroke - that I had last year. When asked how it affected me, I responded, “It gave me my first hint that I might not be bulletproof.”

She laughed and said, “You might be bulletproof, but you aren’t stroke-proof.”

Beneath it all, all the laughter and stories and uproarious confessions amid the comforting aroma of coffee on a cold and snowy winter day, were the images of wheelchairs and walkers. The day had humbled us.

Some of our classmates are gone, felled by accident or disease. Those of us who gathered today are healthy and energetic, our medical needs mere inconveniences in the grand scheme of things.

We are the fortunate today but we are not unaware of what might lie ahead. We make decisions based more on today and tomorrow rather than next year and the next. Our long-range planning isn’t so long range anymore.

We are well aware that father time is now a peer.

As I left the Pioneer Home today, I saw two wheelchairs flanking the elevator shaft.

“Buzz off, you guys,” I said to the wheeled contraptions. “If I need a wheelchair one day, you’d better have a seat belt and roll bar on it.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hello Jeanne-
At least you all got together.
And at least you were talking "face to face" and not hiding behind your devices. My group of seniors says we are the last generation to still talk to each other.

Great story, I loved Anchorage. Never thought about nursing homes there, but of course they are everywhere.

I connected with your article. Turning 70 in November, I have learned to embrace this season of my life. Pursuing interests and setting goals focusing on finding me. Encouraged by my husband of fifty-two years, children and grandchildren, I have been energized to explore my personal interests. No longer feeling guilty for taking time away from family. The nursing home,wheel chair, oxygen tank may be in my future, but until that time arrives I will be living my life to its fullest.

Thank you so much for sharing.

How appropriate a gift it was for me to read your story today of all days. I know I will read it again and then maybe again.

Thanks so much!

Very nice vignette Gully. It's always a pleasure reading your work. Instead of the health care trap, I'm just hoping all my body parts die at the same time.

I've always enjoyed your writing....since Eva Shaw days of the past.... this is no exception... you have a way with words that I admire.

I certainly do identify with you and your reunion. I'm Class of '60, too. I'm still working part-time and saving to travel (the Simla Hills in India). Now I know I have to go in the next couple of years or I'll not be able to do it. Fortunately, I have friends to go with me.

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