*(For those of you who know Latin, you know that means—“through my fault” (sometimes translated “sin”).
As I am growing older (and this past year has reminded me FORCEFULLY that I am), I find myself reflecting. I am staying away from the rocking chair…you know, the image of the old granny sitting in her rocking chair tsk tsk tsking away at the ills of the world. With a few new creaks and groans in my body, I suddenly recall my own youthful impatience when I was younger witnessing such in old people.
Herewith three exemplary stories.
MEA CULPA: We were on a tour that included a stop in St. Petersburg. As with any group tour, we were transported from one site to another by bus. Our tour guide had planned a repertoire on steroids—packed full and quite vigorous. And many in the group were somewhat…ahem…older than my husband and me. At one point, we needed to hurry back to the bus, get on board and drive to the next stop. As one older woman climbed the few steps on to the bus, she slipped and fell squarely on both knees. She was obviously in pain, and several people rushed to help her. She was angrily annoyed and shooed them away while she painfully and slowly got up.
For whatever reasons, that incident really annoyed me, and while I said nothing aloud (I may have mumbled under my breath “oh, come on”), I was dismayed how that incident set the whole tour group at a disadvantage. Delayed departure, delayed arrival, problems with the timed entry to the next stop…
Flash forward some 15 years. Now, I am not on a tour, but karma (she of kindly disposition) showed me what a stumble and then fall can be. I was walking our dog around the block when I caught my shoe on a 1 inch difference in two sidewalk sections, and tumbled face forward on to the sidewalk. A neighbor who was doing yard work saw me—and he rushed over. Should he call an ambulance? NO. Should he call my husband? NO. Should he drive me the half-block to my house? NO. Well, he asked what could he do. I said—give me a cloth to stop the bleeding. He kindly did…and I walked the rest of the way home. I had a lovely scraped forehead, several facial cuts but no broken bones.
Mea culpa—where was my fault? Certainly not in falling. The fault was my earlier reaction of impatience and lack of caring on that tour.
MEA CULPA—my father and mother first moved to a retirement village when they were in their 60s. With my mother’s death my father was alone. He remarried and eventually he and my step-mother moved into assisted living. When my step-mother needed nursing care, my father then moved into a single room. I tried to visit him once a week, and frequently found that my time was consumed by his demands: get this, sew that, fix this, OH and check my computer. One day, when I visited him he indicated he couldn’t get into his computer because someone had called and said there was a particular problem and he needed to click on….I need go no further. He fell for it. I am NO computer whiz, but for some reason, I wondered if I went back to an earlier restore point if that wouldn’t “fix” things. Tried it…and it worked. And each time I saw my dad after that, I warned him—no more clicking on things or following the direction of charlatans on the phone.
Flash forward 5 years. Because of those experiences with my dad, I religiously avoid scams—either telephone based or computer messages. Until…I received an email purportedly from my pastor. His note said, “you might be interested in this” and there was a hyper-link. AND I fell for it. The pastor and I had been working on a church issue, and I had received an earlier email from him on the problem subject, and without thinking assumed this link related to that. Of course, it didn’t. PANIC. And remorse.
Mea Culpa—where was my fault? Well, partly on being duped. But more for my impatience with my father and not recognizing how easy it is to be duped by something seemingly so innocent.
MEA CULPA—when my father and step-mother first moved into their assisted living area, they had a double bed but had no sheets. I had gotten them some news sheets, but one day my father called and said I needed to take them back…they were too slippery. Slippery? Yes, he said—your step mother keeps falling out of bed.
Oh, come on, I thought—how can she fall out of bed! Anyway, I took the sheets. The bed issue was part its own saga—first, they had moved their queen bed from their cottage, then got rid of it. They got a double bed, but with the sheets and the falling got rid of it. Finally, they ended up with two single beds not long before my step-mother moved into nursing care.
Fast forward … again. I have lately begun experiencing dizziness—sort of a “the deck is rocking and rolling on this ship” feeling. I haven’t fallen out of bed. But I do now understand the disorientation and near-vertigo that can accompany aging.
No need to ask mea culpa—where was my fault? You can identify it—my impatience and lack of understanding that the experiences I have relayed can be part of the aging process. And I am being more intentional in watching my step where I go.
I heard a doctor who was giving a talk on aging say, “ when people get older they don’t change (their personality)—the patina just wears thin.” I have thought of that wisdom a great deal. We are what we are—and growing older doesn’t turn us into something else suddenly.
The instances I have relayed are not the only way I am. So, while I can, I burnish the patina a little bit—cultivate an attitude of gratitude; say thank you to every kindly gesture; thank people who are doing small tasks JUST for doing that task; be kind…be kind…be kind—I trust mea culpa will be forgiven.