Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up

Whenever I deliver Meals on Wheels I can't help but wonder what I will be like when I am elderly. I know some things are inevitable; no matter how well I care for myself, I am likely to suffer from some ill health when I age. Most of the people on my route are unable to drive anymore, and some of them cannot even walk. Others suffer from hearing loss, diabetes, and general decline in health.

I would like to think that I will not have these problems when I get older, but in all likelihood, my physical health will not be at the same level it is now, not even close. My mobility will probably decline and my worst fear about aging may come true: my vision may deteriorate so that I will no longer be able to read.

I know these things, but I still cling to the notion that aging doesn't have to be a miserable experience. I can be an upbeat, happy older person, if I want to, right? Well, I definitely have some great examples to emulate on my route.

There's Edith, who is very hard of hearing and is over 80 years old. She has some difficulty getting around, but she is always delighted to see my children. Edith greets us with a big smile and immediately heads to her pantry to retrieve several packets of McDonald's cookies for the kids. I'm disappointed on the days that Edith is not at home, because speaking with her always lifts my mood. She's got a fun, spunky, upbeat attitude that makes me wish I could pull up a chair and spend the morning with her.

I talked at length with a new woman on the route who reminded me of all I have to be grateful for. She, like most of the MOW people, has had a rough life. She can no longer walk and is missing at least one finger. She just lost her husband of 50 years last Spring, and wasn't even able to say goodbye to him, because she was in the hospital when he unexpectedly passed away. Still, rather than complain about her struggles and grief, she told me how grateful she was to have been married to a man whom she loved so much.

Another woman watched from her armchair as Charlotte did a little jig in her apartment. The woman commented on how now that she is older she can no longer dance. Instead of being wistful, though, she said how grateful she was that she used to be able to dance and how nice it was to be reminded of that time.

At each of these women's homes, I came away thinking, "That's how I want to be when I get older! I know it isn't easy, but they have all maintained a really positive attitude, and that is how I want to be when I get to be their age."

And that's when it hit me: if I want to be like these marvelous women when I am older, I need to emulate them now. It's not like the minute I am eligible for the senior's discount at McDonald's my personality will suddenly morph into that of a positive, grateful, pleasant person. If only that were the case.

If I can't be grateful now when my blessings in life are so abundantly clear, I probably don't stand a chance when I age; I'm totally going to be a crusty old woman who yells at cute little kids and kicks puppies.

Unless I change.

So, here's to me working to become more like Edith and the other fantastic women on my Meals on Wheels route. It'll be hard work, but the puppies will thank me.


Heather said...

What a beautiful post - this is truly what life is all about! Here's to finding your inner Edith:)

Sorbe said...

Great observations. We've seen a lot of these same things running our assisted living home. It's been a really fun experience. Where you end up at the end is, for the most part, a sum of those little decisions that you make on a day by day basis.

My current thought on life is that I really can't change much, and I certainly can't change another person. But I can go about trying to bless the lives of those people that I come in contact with during my day. And with that in mind, I try to look for where people have blessed my life and make sure I express gratitude. Other than that, it's kind of a wash.

@jencull (jen) said...

Good point, I never thought of it like that. My husbands Grandmother lived to be 100, did things like computer courses at 98, took up painting in her late 80. She never stopped and I hope I can be like her in my older years:) Jen

Mrsbear said...

That's an admirable goal.

My grandmother has always been the cantankerous puppy kicker and so often I can see myself veering in that curmudgeonly direction. Ugh. It takes effort for me to stay positive sometimes, negativity seems to be in my genes. But I do try.

I often think to myself that I don't want to be anything like my grandmother when I get old, despite loving her, I want to take advantage and appreciate every minute. Hopefully.

I love that you get to spend time with these amazing ladies, it really does give you great perspective. :)

Alysia said...

This is beautiful.

My 88 year old grandmother always says "You have to think positively!" This is a woman who grew up in the Depression, buried three husbands after 20yrs with each of them, and one son (my dad). She is a believer that looking on the bright side is the cure for what ails you. She tells me that she refuses to be like her mother was - stuck in the house and depressed all her life.
Something to aspire too...thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Patty, I had no idea you delivered Meals on Wheels. I think that is fantastic! I'm sure all the people on your route love to see you come to their home. Both you and Suzy are making remarkable impact on the lives of the elderly. Thank you! Love you, Ada Marie

ShesAlwaysWrite said...

Loved this! I made the same conscious choice a few years back to start being most positive, and it's amazing how much happier I am (and how better things in general seem to work out).