Grabbing Joy

I love to people watch everywhere that I go. I’m always looking for interesting stories and sometimes I find them just in observing the day to day interactions of human beings. Some of my favorite Facebook posts come from the Humans of New York series of short interviews with ordinary citizens. There is often profound wisdom found in the comments from unknown, everyday men and women. It is for that reason that I am always alert to the goings on around me. 

On a recent trip to San Antonio my daughter, granddaughter, and I had gone out for a quick break from caring for my injured grandson and keeping up the household duties. We found ourselves at the Starbuck’s inside the local Target. While we were waiting for our drinks an elderly woman hobbled into the area. She had a severe limp but she appeared to be resigned to her fate for she had a smile on her face that brought sunshine into the room. Her hair was snowy white and highlighted with streaks of hot pink as though she wanted to announce to the world that she might be old and crippled but she wasn’t quite yet ready to give in to her old age. I liked her instantly!

Her husband walked slowly behind her. He was quite literally bent over at a ninety degree angle. He had to turn his head in an awkward position to even see where he was going. He shuffled at a distressingly slow pace and bore an expression of sad resignation to his fate. His wife had to assist him when he tried to sit down. It was apparent that she had become his caretaker and that he was slowly but surely drifting into a state of second childhood. She was more motherly in her care for him than spousal.

The lady had ordered a venti hand crafted soda for the two of them and she patiently held the straw up to her husband’s mouth while he sipped and drooled. It was both a loving sight and a distressing one for me. My left knee was throbbing with pain and much like the woman I had been limping for six weeks, hoping that the tweaks and stabs that throbbed up and down my leg would miraculously go away. As I watched this couple I found myself wondering if in fact I was staring into a crystal ball at my own future. After all I will not get younger and healthier as the coming years pass. My only fate will be to grow older.

I must admit that I left that scene feeling a bit depressed. Only a year ago I had my first ever major surgery. In the months that followed I spent more time with various doctors than I had experienced in my entire life. Those closest to me began to joke that I was falling apart and that I had aged rapidly in a very short amount of time. All in all my situation made me angry even though I knew of peers who were experiencing far worse illnesses than I was. I had always been proud of being strong and healthy even though I have done very little to insure my well being other than having a fairly good set of genes. I just didn’t know how to react to sympathetic stares and obvious remarks about my senior citizen status. Besides, I had begun to wonder if I had somehow become a hypochondriac with all of the complaints that I had unearthed in the past year. 

On Tuesday I was somewhat relieved to learn that I had not been imagining the pain in my knee that had kept me from being my usual energetic self. I almost cried tears of joy upon learning that I had a large tear in my meniscus and that I would require surgery. I was more than ready to get this out of the way. I jumped at the opportunity to have the procedure done only two days later. My life suddenly became a whirlwind of pre-op tests done to insure that my body was up to the challenge. I dutifully had an EKG and all of the other required screenings. As I was waiting for the nurse to return with the results I suddenly overheard her announcing to her colleagues, “I have an unbelievably healthy sixty six year old in there!” 

Her comment was music to my ears. Suddenly all of my fears and ridiculous imaginings were put to rest. I felt that I might have a few more really good years ahead and I instead thought of friends who are not as fortunate. The fact is that our bodies are not meant to be perfect forever. We slowly begin to deteriorate as the years go by. My health woes have fortunately been easily repaired but for some of my friends things have not been so simple. So many of them are dealing with heart trouble, cancer, auto immune diseases, severe arthritis and issues that have forced them to slow down and rethink the way that they do things. I suppose that watching them has caused me to worry a bit about my own future.

One thing that is certain is that life is fragile. We all need to remember to seize the days that we have. We often tell ourselves that we will one day do this or accomplish that and sometimes we never quite get there. I love the people who are willing to throw a bit of caution to the wind and take that big trip that is on their bucket list, or try that adventure that has heretofore been only a dream. We simply never know if the opportunities that come our way will ever again be available and so we should think twice before being so conservative that we never quite get there.

My mother-in-law had always spoken of wanting to visit Great Britain, the land where her mother was born. Somehow life kept getting in the way and she never quite got there even though she would often speak of how wonderful it would be to see her ancestral home. Like so many of her generation she was hopelessly devoted to caring for her family and friends and so she never quite found the time to make the one trip that she so desired. She tended to think that perhaps it would happen in the next year and then the next. Of course it never did. 

I’d love the meme that speaks of sliding into death bruised and laughing with the knowledge that we have experienced all of the wonderfulness that life offers. If the past year has taught me anything it is that we are going to be bombarded with a thousand different irritations no matter what we do to prevent them. If we are smart we will keep calm, carry on, and plan that next great trip or gathering with friends, or experience of a lifetime. Soon enough we may be like that old couple at Target, barely able to get around enough just to enjoy a cold drink on a hot summer day. We have to take the time and the risks to keep ourselves in the game so we may as well make it fun.

I’m looking forward to wonderful days ahead as soon as my knee is healed and the after effects of dizziness and nausea go away. Watch out for me. Nobody is going to be able to hold me down! 

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