Over the weekend my husband and I did our monthly large shop. We go to a nearby shopping centre using car-sharing, and bulk buy catsand, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and groceries. We usually stop for lunch halfway through.
As we were finishing our lunch, an elderly man in a wheelchair sat at the table next to us. He ordered a beer and a giant shrimp sandwich. He caught my eye, gave me a naughty, twinkly smile and said ‘I am 98 years old and I escaped from the old age home for the afternoon!’
I moved to his table to finish my coffee and we had a great chat. He was born in 1925, married for 50 years before being widowed, married again at 72 and was widowed earlier this year. He keeps active, has plenty of companions at the residential home (though he does not like the food) and still works, writing articles and giving lectures about medical psychology. After his lunch he was going to buy a bottle of wine and do some shopping.
He was so happy and positive and as sharp as a tack. His sense of humour and twinkling eyes made my month! He was very dapperly dressed and newly-shaved, and was wearing black sneakers and a gorgeous black coat.
What struck me most was his positivity. He told me that he had some trouble with his knees and when I asked him he told me that the food at his elderly care home was a monotonous and cooked in bulk. But he twinkled, he sparkled, he laughed. He told me how good life was and how much fun he was having. He said the most important thing was to keep active in body and mind, and have friends. As I took my leave he said to me with a huge smile ‘see, this is what I was talking about, companionship with people’
I have to admit that getting older has really shaken me. Every time I look at social media, another person I know has died. I am well aware that I am in the final act of my life, and way more of my life is behind me than ahead of me. There are so many places in the world that I know I will never see. I am afraid of becoming infirm and frail.
I realised on the way home that as we get older, many of us complain more. I find myself doing it – about the world around us, about the price of things, about how getting old sucks, how tired we are, how change baffles us.
But talking to this wonderful man really perked me up. I never got his name but I will remember him forever. I aspire to be like. I will try to be like that.