Thursday, September 30, 2004

Elderly Inspiration

“The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.”
~ Proverbs 20:20 (NLT)

Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy

Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say, and then forget?
Did families really bow their heads to pray
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days

Grandpa, Tell me ‘bout the Good Old Days ~ recorded by The Judds

This past week Keen has been business/dog sitting for some friends of ours who live above their computer store in downtown Topeka. I joined him for a couple days over the weekend and was able to visit a few of my elderly friends on Monday.

My day started out at the cafeteria of St. Francis Hospital where I met my friend Marne for breakfast. Marne eats there almost every day and enjoys visiting with his two friends, Steve and Amy, who are lab technicians. Unfortunately, Marne had taken a spill the night before and had a small cut on his forehead and a bruise on his face. Later, a trip to the dentist revealed the need for some unexpected dental work. “Seems like I have enough trouble for two or three people,” he wrote in an email. “Well, I will get by.”

After breakfast, I decided to drive to the Luther Apartments to see if I could catch my other friend, Joy. The timing was perfect as Joy was just heading out on her morning walk, wearing her red baseball cap and flannel shirt. Joy puts me to shame because she walks nearly every single morning year around – with a walker, no less. Twenty years ago she had a heart valve replaced and the doctor told her that if she wanted to live a long life then she would need to walk every day. So that’s what she does.

Poor Joy has had more than her fair share of misfortune lately. “I wish you could have walked in my shoes for the past six weeks,” she said. First of all, Joy lost her beloved twin sister, Joyce. Then there was a mix-up with the hospital and they started sending her all the bills. To make matters worse, she received a letter from the social security office (addressed “to the deceased”) informing her that they would be discontinuing her benefits. So Joy was feeling pretty overwhelmed and tearful that day, but bless her heart, she was trying her best to pull herself up by the bootstraps. “I gave myself a good talking to this morning,” she said.

In the afternoon, I met my brother Bill, his wife Connie and their daughter, Callie in Lawrence to watch their son Joey play quarterback for his Olathe football team. It was a beautiful afternoon and a great game. (They won by about 40 points.)

Afterwards we all went out to eat at Taco Johns on Haskell Avenue, which just happened to be about 3 blocks away from the home of my dear poet friend, Marian. Even though it was about 7:00 at night, I just couldn’t imagine not stopping by to say hello.

Marian and I had a wonderful visit, as always – being the kindred spirits that we are. She is such a special person and a talented poet who has written hundreds of poems over the years. Marian and her husband Arthur raised six children – 3 boys and 3 girls – and owned businesses in Manhattan and Wamego. In fact, Art was the mayor of Wamego at one time. But he is gone now, and Marian still grieves over the loss of the love of her life.

“Would that I’d a second chance,
To declare my love, to dance that dance
A chance to tell him what I ought
In loving words, so dearly bought!”
Excerpt from Song of Regret by Marian Umscheid

During our visit, Marian shared some of her ills, including being informed that she needed a root canal. But she chose to listen to her gut instincts which told her that the procedure really wasn’t necessary. Then she took some antibiotics that she had on hand, and the infection – or whatever it was – cleared right up. Marian says that she’s become bolder in her older age and is less afraid to say what she really thinks. Like the time the podiatrist kept her waiting in the examination room with no socks on her feet for about twenty minutes. Finally, she climbed off the table, grabbed her canes and walked down the hall in search of the doctor. Upon finding him, she exclaimed, “Excuse me, but I’ve been waiting for a long time and my feet are getting cold. Now I know I’m not a doctor like you are, but I think my time is just as important as yours.” The doctor apologized profusely and treated her right away.

While I was visiting Marian, she asked if she could give me some advice. “Meditate,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted. Slow down and take the time to meditate on the blessings in your life. Think about your legs and how fortunate you are to be able to walk. If I could, I would put it on a plaque for you – Don’t take anything for granted.”

My visits with my three elderly friends caused me to reflect. Each one of them – all in their eighties – still have daily struggles to contend with. They have to get up every morning and make a conscious effort to be happy and make the most out of the life they have been given. It’s not easy for any of us, at any age, but I am inspired by my dear friends who have so many more challenges than I do, and yet they carry on.

In closing, I’d like to share the following poem Marian wrote about retirement.

By Marian Umscheid

I’m retired, but you wouldn’t know it
All the things I have to do
The upkeep is monstrous
I’ll name a few:

There’s my body, and more things
Are going bad all the time,
The dentist, the doctor, the pharmacist
From my upkeep are doin’ fine.

Then there’s the house, it keeps
Showing the wear and tear
First the roof, then the furnace,
Every month something needs care

There are bulbs to change
And bulbs to plant
Things to oil and grass to mow
While watching for insects and bugs
I think they’re about to lay me low!

Don’t forget the car, the most demanding
Every few days it needs gas
Or fluid of one kind or another
Tires or brakes or polish the glass.

So don’t tell me that I can
Sit back and shirk,
I’ve more to do than a cranberry merchant,
Wonder when I had time to work?

I’ll put on my rose-colored glasses
I’ll put away discouragement and fear
I’ll look to the heavens for guidance
And live on for many more years.
~ Marian Umscheid

Marian & me