from where i stand

Residents of The Sequoias listen to Eleanor Hammer, whose resistance to using a walker ended after she fell during an exercise class, play a piano recital at the assisted living facility in San Francisco, Aug. 29, 2014. As the American population lives longer, fall-related injuries and deaths are rising quickly. (Ramin Rahimian/The New York Times)

from where i stand

1115 every day. and 1645 every day. they line up. queued against the wall, waiting for the the double doors to the dining room to open.

a tiny lady with a plastic bag tucked under her elbow, so small she could might be a whisper, uses one leg and one arm to scootch herself forward. she is dressed in mismatched clothes and oversized shoes, bent over in her oversized wheelchair, plastic flowers attached to the right arm.  she is unable to speak yet she lifts her eyes from her slump and smiles.

a tall, upright regal woman, dressed in red. a wool plaid, pleated skirt hits mid calf, a matching sweater set and black proper shoes, hair bobbed straight at her earlobes, showing elegant pearl studs. she shuffles along with her walker, inch by inch.

a man, his face weathered with deep crinkled lines, checkered shirt buttoned to the neck and tucked tightly into his belt, sits outside the beauty parlor listening to chatter. a distinct smell of permanent solution sifts into the hallway.

the couple bickering. both in hawaiian shirts, she with a glass of white wine and dripped in costume jewelry and a walker, he with a drawn face and newspaper under arm.

facility chairs line up next to wheelchairs next to walkers, filled with bent bodies, fingers curled together, gray heads blend together, eyes closed, eyes open with just a hint of sparkle, waiting for the doors to open.

down the hallway, one by one doors open and close as wheelchairs begin their journey out of their rooms. walkers and three pronged canes hold weary bodies up as they wait for the time to be nourished and fed, to sit together over a meal and share time together.

a family member calls this “God’s waiting room.” i imagine that might be a way to make sense out of a major change of view. maybe it is an attempt at humor. or discomfort. or lack of words or understanding or an unwillingness to accept the reality of life. maybe it is a way to push pain and loss further away. maybe it is fear. i only know it feels like an unwillingness to see and accept an important part of growing older. and it misses the point.

when we can’t see others, we can’t see ourselves.

stories and sadness, gratitude and longing, anticipation and weariness. waiting for a smile, a touch, a question. waiting for the doors to open. a place at a table.

waiting for the dessert special of the week. red jello with fruit.

from where i stand.


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