In the nature of callow youth, when I was a teenager - and maybe a young woman too - I noted with some disdain that the homes of old people I knew were often in need of a design update.
If the décor fashion of the day was Danish modern, for example, I felt a kind of contempt for the people who were not keeping up.
It's not that their homes hadn't been cleaned but threadbare upholstery, nicks on chair legs and permanent stains on table tops pointed up some shabbiness. Oh, my disdain knew few bounds.
I've noticed through the years that a lot of children can be as judgmental as I once was and on some reflection, I wonder maybe that it's okay – as long as they aren't rude about it.
It takes a long time to form one's tastes and discernment and young people generally prefer the new to the old – and maybe that applies people as well as furnishings for them (I THINK that's a joke).
And, of course, there are a lot of understandable reasons an old person's home can seem dated to the young. It's expensive to reupholster an otherwise perfectly good sofa and money is generally tighter in retirement.
My latest reason for not spending much time thinking about replacements for whatever is worn is realizing that it probably isn't worth the effort for whatever time is left to me on earth. (I THINK that's half a joke.) Here's an example of one thing I won't be replacing.
When Ollie the cat first came to live with me 13 years ago, from day one he used a leg of my desk to hone his claws. It was a new desk then and I was concerned about what he was doing. At least he wasn't shredding the sofa upholstery, I told myself, but it was a nice desk that he was ripping into.
When I asked a friend what she thought I should do, she had a couple of questions: Is the desk an antique, Ronni? Are you planning to leave it to me in your will?
No to both. And my friend said, “So why do you care?”
She was right and I have not cared ever since nor do I have any intention of replacing the desk even if there are young people who, like me at one time, would see the desk leg as a sign of senile neglect.
All that is leading up to a more serious issue with children, mostly younger ones in this case.
At the hospital where my surgery took place, there is a long, wide hallway between the check-in lobby and the exterior stairs. A nurse was pushing me in a wheelchair as we navigated that space on the day I was leaving.
I was still shaky, in some pain, and acutely aware of my sore midsection where the long incision is. As we moved forward, an old man using a cane with one arm while holding the arm of woman I guessed was his adult daughter, walked past us in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, two boys – maybe seven, eight or nine – ran full tilt down the hallway, brushing the old man's cane arm as they scooted by and then, making a course correction, nearly bumped into my wheelchair.
I don't recall any previous time when I was frightened in just that way. I immediately pictured myself and the wheelchair tipped over on the floor of the hallway, my incision ripped open with blood pouring forth.
Okay, perhaps I was being dramatic but I was hardly myself yet with the effects of 12 hours of anesthesia still muddling my brain. And anyway, in the circumstance it was not an inconceivable accident.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago while shopping at the Saturday farmer's market an almost identical situation took place: I was wandering the stalls when a couple of young boys, playing tag or running just for the fun of it, almost set me off balance as one of them brushed my arm in passing.
I wasn't as vulnerable that time as I had been in the hospital hallway, but it frightened me in the way that pretty much all old people are afraid of falling (as we should be at our age: one-third of Americans 65 and older fall each year. Some of them die from the fall).
These two almost-accidents are a new phenomenon for me. Before them, I had never thought of young kids as an elder hazard.
It is one thing for young people to ridicule how old people live in their homes – most of them, like me, will outgrow it. It is quite another for them to endanger the lives of old people - and you cannot help but wonder where their parents are.
In my case, I came to my newfound feelings of vulnerability via a massive surgery but in time it would have happened anyway with the normal debilities of age.
But I know that from this moment forward I will give all young children a wide berth. They are not safe for an old person to be around.