There’s an elderly couple who live next door to us. They moved in a few years ago. The husband is in some stage of Alzheimer’s and it can be so heart wrenching to watch what I’m positive used to be a strong and healthy husband and father, struggle to walk and talk. He used to at least make it to the mailboxes down the street using a cane. Then it became one of those scooter things. Then I’ve noticed he hasn’t been getting the mail at all anymore. Not sure if it’s because he is no longer physically able to walk or scooter that far, or if maybe his family is concerned that he goes to get the mail but then ends up in some other state because he got confused, forgot where he lived, forgot everything.
It was a while back but his grown son came over and was doing some serious landscaping work in the front yard. I believe the plan was to completely remove the two tall narrow trees that framed the doorway, stumps and all. The old man was in and out of the house, I’m positive he was overseeing the project. Towards the end, when all was left but cleanup of a few stray branches and such, the sky let loose. It was a hard Texas rainfall. However, this rain didn’t stop the cleanup effort going on next door. I noticed my neighbor was working right alongside his son. The old man had one of those sturdy outdoor brooms and was pushing at debris and water in the street. It was at this moment when I felt I got a glimpse of our elderly neighbor in his younger days. He had strength I hadn’t noticed before, and he walked tall and with confidence. Having the broom there for support probably didn’t hurt, but I could just picture him outside when his son was still a child, working on house projects together. Dad leading the way, showing his son how things were done.
The other evening, Gerald and I were relaxing in the pool and I shared with him my thoughts. When we were first married, we had the whole world in front of us, we had all the time to be this married couple, to grow a family. We were still on the “upswing” of our lives, the uphill part of the curve. The boys came along, and we still felt so young and vibrant and couldn’t wait to watch them grow. Well, the boys are definitely busy growing up. In fact, they won’t stop. Our oldest has already surpassed the height of yours truly, which is a really easy feat by the way, and he is tied with Gerald.
While seeing our boys grow and mature is a true blessing, it has come with mixed feelings for me. I’m starting to feel my track is on the downward slope. I’ve come to realize that Gerald and I really don’t have our whole lives ahead of us anymore. We have more like half our lives ahead. And this is, of course, assuming something else besides old age doesn’t get to us first.
What a weird day when seventy no longer looks old to me, and I find AARP magazine articles riveting. Seventy is sure to come in a heartbeat. And hell yeah I want to read financial tips and what Steve Martin has been up to! Strange to realize I’m looking down the other side of life’s hill.
Back to our elderly neighbors – I believe what gets me the most is that being that old has become palpable. It’s real. When you’re young, it’s hard to imagine ever becoming the old feeble couple from next door. It’s likely the farthest thing from your mind. But you get older, your children get older, those around you get older, you can see it. I can see Gerald and me being the old couple, while we, and the younger ones around us, recall or imagine our strength, our vitality, we possessed once upon a time in our youthful days, the days before the top of the curve.