I have a confession to make. I'm becoming a potential dementia creeper.
Ever since my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I have been on a subconscious covert operation to diagnose other elderly people in my path and help them. I'm sure it stems from the fact that I wish I could be in Alabama helping and caretaking. It pains me to think of other families suffering without the support they need to cope.
So this morning, on my way home from dropping my daughter off at school, I almost had to skid to a stop to avoid hitting an elderly woman crossing our small street. She lives two blocks away from me, and I can only recall seeing her twice in the almost 11 years we've lived in our house. She was shuffling slowly across the street, carrying a paper that it appeared she had removed from another person's yard. So my dementia detective skills shifted into high gear:
"Has she been home ridden and now she's starting to wander? Oh my gosh, does she deludedly think that is her paper? Is she going back into her house or is she going to start traversing the neighborhood unsupervised? She doesn't look very able bodied. Oh no, is she going to fall and hurt herself?" These and other thoughts raced through my head as I waited for her to cross.
Finally she reached her side of the street, and I proceeded slowly forward, glancing back to make sure she was okay. This is what I saw: A lovely lady in a clean and pressed lavender matching track suit, perfectly coiffed and fully made up. Clear eyes looked steadily ahead of her. She was the picture of "put together." Full makeup at 7:00 AM? Amazing!
Then I glanced down at myself and this is what I saw: Unkempt baggy sweatpants and an unmatching too-tight, T-shirt. Staring back at me from the rear view mirror was a full Afro instead of the tight, luscious curls of my hair when styled....a sallow face with the vestiges of last night's mascara still black under my eyes which happened to also be sporting deep, dark, Italian bags. To complete the picture, eyes full of "I got stuff to do on four hours of sleep" looked wildly around.
Who needs the supervision here?!?
And then I realized as I passed her beautifully manicured lawn, newly painted house, and blooming Gerber daisies in clean and sparkling window boxes just how different this noble generation is from my scattered one. There is focus and pride found in the lives and homes of the elderly. Where I may buy a new couch just because it has one too many stains from one too many spills that I didn't take care of in time, this beautiful woman probably has the same couch she had 25 years ago - and it probably looks as good as new. Where I fill my day with saying yes to everyone and everything around me, the elderly I know have perfected the self-control that comes with not overextending oneself to the exclusion of taking care of their responsibilities. Where I often throw out vegetables or fruit which have gone bad because I bought too much in an effort to make one grocery run, the elderly I know carefully plan meals and money spent so there is no waste.
Turns out I am the deluded one. Deluded into thinking that busy makes a principled heart. Deluded into taking on too many projects and thinking it's the honorable thing to do - ignoring the fact that I can't do ANY of them beautifully when I am overextended. Deluded into thinking housework and care of my family and home is a bother, an afterthought.
No, I need to remember this moment when I make assumptions based on image. I need to remember that there is a reason wisdom comes with age. I need to remember that God saturates us in the quiet and reflective moments of our lives, not in the chaos. I need to remember that old age doesn't have to mean a loss of thoughts, words and language - and middle age doesn't necessarily mean one's thoughts, words and language are focused and sane. I need to remember that, whatever the age, God's presence - and His presence only - is that which makes us clear.
Photo courtesy of Photobucket, Susan 0928