By Elizabeth Van Liere
“Here you go, Sweetheart,” the man said as he opened the City Market door for me.
I glared at the football-player-sized man standing there. Unspoken thoughts roiled through my brain. Just a minute, Buster. I’m not your sweetheart. You don’t know me, and for sure I don’t know you.
A moment later I bit my lip. Get off your high horse, I scolded myself. He was just being nice. Being a gentleman. . . . Yet, he shouldn’t have called me sweetheart. It diminished me. Made me feel small. Like how I shrink when I wear a jacket with the old-fashioned, big shoulder pads.
Oh well. I tossed the thoughts out of my head and pushed my cane ahead of me. With a fake, sweet smile and a “Thank you,” I strolled like a queen through the doorway into the store.
Later at home, I got to thinking about the incident. More and more lately teens, young men, and even women open doors for me, pick up things I dropped, and give me a smile for no reason at all. I’ve always done things for myself, been independent. This unasked for attention makes me less sure of myself. I want to holler at the doing-a-good-deed person, “I can do it myself!” But I guess there’s only one way to look at it: This kindness comes when you acquire gray hair and wrinkles. These people are just being respectful.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Actually, there’s lots more when these so-called golden years come around. One notable item—hearing aids. If I don’t use them, sound comes as though I’m inside a cave or a tunnel. Dull. Distant. Dead.
I’m not alone in my dislike of these plug-ins. One of my brothers-in-law keeps his in a dresser drawer. But I’m stubborn. And being brought up to watch my pennies, I’m thrifty. Hearing aids cost too much not to use them. So I wear them.
As I look back over the years, I realize how much I’ve taken for granted. I could always hear when people spoke to me from another room. Now when someone speaks off to one side, I miss most of what they’re saying. I can’t count the many times I’ve said to a friend or relative, “Please look at me when you talk to me.”
The same goes for TV. Most of the time I watch what the actors or newscasters are doing or showing, because what they’re saying sounds like a foreign language. At the same time, a room full of chattering people pelts my ears with senseless racket. Makes me want to run outside with my hands over my ears.
My audiologist told me, “Hearing is part loss. The other part involves the brain. So listen to audio books, the radio, and to the TV programs. Don’t just watch. Don’t try to read lips. Train yourself to listen.”
All well and good. I still feel as though my world is closing in on me, but what am I to do? Hang in there and concentrate on what is being said, I guess.
My Get-Up Has Gone
Let me add this: My daughter picked peaches a week ago. Slowly, day by day, I prepared syrup, peeled and pared small batches of the fruit, and froze them in freezer bags. Many peaches remained on the card table under newspapers to help them ripen. Until today. It was my daughter’s day off from work. She zipped through about 10 packages before 10 a.m. All while I was eating breakfast.
Where does this leave me? I shrug as I remember my younger years, especially the first summer after both my friend and I were newly married. That August she and I canned three bushels of peaches at my house and the next day we did three more batches at her house. Those days are long in the past because canning is a lot more work than freezing. But I still can’t keep up.
Pity Party for One
A thought begins to nag me: Quit your complaining. What about my close friend Sally? Her daughter helped her move into an assisted living home. I, at least, am in my own home. Yet I wipe the thought away and continue griping . . .
I carry a cane. It took several weeks for me to acknowledge that I am now a member of the “be careful” group. Wouldn’t want to fall and break a hip or my back. All of this reminds me of what another 93-year-old friend said: “I don’t mind getting old. I just don’t like what comes with it.”
Nope, I don’t like what comes as we grow older. We slow down, physically and mentally. Bird songs are a memory. Our pride (mine anyway) falls by the wayside when a stranger calls us sweetheart. Our canes are like red lights to others. “Aw. Be careful. This poor old lady/old man needs help.”
As I read back on the words I’ve written, my mind takes a leap into laughter. I shake my head at my self-centered thoughts. Although not 100 percent, I can hear. I’m slower at things like freezing foods or dusting or walking to the mailbox. But I have a wonderful daughter who does what needs to be done. She never nags, “Do this, do that.” Instead, she does it while I’m thinking about doing it. And I can walk. My cane? I use it because it gives me stability in case I slip or stumble.
I watch all my petty complaints fall away when I consider that one day (not too far away) another door will be opened for me. Someone who calls himself the door (John 10:7, New American Standard Bible) will open his arms wide and welcome me into his presence. Best of all, he won’t call me sweetheart. It’ll be much more meaningful. He will call me, “Child.” His child, because he knows me (Isaiah 43:1). I can almost hear it now, “Come in, Elizabeth. Come in.”
Elizabeth Van Liere, soon to be 93, published her two devotional books, Dare to Live and Dare to Laugh, at age 87 and 91.