One day a few years back, my next-door neighbor came over and asked me to take her to Safeway. She was the same age as my mom, which put her in her mid-eighties, so I agreed.
I dropped off the neighbor at Safeway and then ran to the post office to mail my package. When I got back to Safeway, the neighbor had filled her cart with TV dinners and six-packs of Ensure. I helped her go through the check-out lane, and when the clerk asked my neighbor for her phone number to get her Safeway Rewards, my neighbor didn’t know it.
When he told her the total was $113.88, my neighbor couldn’t find her money. When I asked her if I could look in her purse, I found ten twenty-dollar bills in a white envelope, mixed in with coupons and other stuff. I paid her bill, put the change in her wallet, and helped her to my car. When we got home, the neighbor had no house key. I helped her figure out that she had left the side door to the garage unlocked so that she could get back inside.
The neighbor’s daughter called me and told me not to take her mother to the store again. As it turned out, the neighbor wasn’t supposed to eat TV dinners. Too much salt.
A few weeks later, the neighbor came over on a Saturday morning, rang my doorbell, and asked me to take her to Safeway. I looked at her standing there in her stylish jacket, her purse on her arm, and her tennis shoes. Unfortunately, the neighbor had forgotten to put on her pants. She did have on a pair of Depends, but that was all.
“You have good-looking legs for your age,” I said, “but you can’t go shopping with no pants on.”
I called the daughter, who was mortified. A few weeks later, the neighbor was wandering into the park next door to my house to talk with whoever was there. Once again, she had on no pants.
I called the daughter again. She clearly didn’t want to hear it.
At the store the other day, I pulled into a spot next to a handicapped spot. When I emerged from my car, an elderly woman said to me,” Since I let you have the shady spot, could you get me a shopping cart?”
Let me have the shady spot?
She had parked first, and she chose the handicapped spot with no shade. At any rate, I went to get her the cart as she explained that she couldn’t step up over the curb to get one.
I brought the cart down to her, and she held on and used it as a walker to get into the store. My mother-in-law had been the same way. She’d careen down the hallway, grabbing hold of anything she could to keep her balance. She was way too proud to use a walker or a cane.
A friend of mine found out that her mother-in-law was going to the doctor’s office in her small town every day to chat up the people in the waiting room. The doctor finally called my friend’s husband to tell him what was happening with his mom.
I have seen the future, and it is us.
My neighbor is now in a nursing home, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her house sits empty, her daughter too busy to get it updated to rent. I’ve been in that house. There is ten years’ worth of mail on the living room floor.
I hope I will age with grace, that I will ask for help from a stranger without trying to make a deal, and that I will wear pants. If not, I hope a younger person will help me by telling me to put on pants and not judge.
This is our future, folks, should we live so long.