I feel kinda sad, ’cause there was a post I wanted to write–just for the sake of writing it. It was a striking (to me) vignette, and I wanted it down. But–later. I said later, not now, when I have time, soon, later. When you say ‘later’ too many times, you lose your chance. The other night I realized that I couldn’t write it. I’d forgotten too many details that transform the ordinary to the striking. I lost the vibrancy that gives writing that piquancy that sets it aside from tedious recounting. So while I know that I could patch a version of that post together. . .I lost my chance at a really good piece of writing. And that, to me, is sad.
Ok, there. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, we can move on. (Maybe another night, I’ll take a whack at that post anyway; just not right this second.)
Right now I’m on my last clinical rotation. . .it’s short-term rehab. Everyone is old. It’s a constant reminder that you ARE going to get old. . .but that that doesn’t say much. There are so many hundreds of thousands of ways to get old. But who they are now is only a result of how they were before. . .so how, exactly, do I want to get old?
Like the 91 year old who says “honey, I can’t” to everything you try to get her to do? Or the 91 year old who still has a sassy sense of humor? The 82 year old who regretfully recounts how she used to walk outside and mow the lawn with her “John Deer tractor” and how “I thought I was exercising and working hard!” She says she knows better now, with her feet turning black from poor circulation. It hurts to watch; she has spunk and life inside but her body is falling apart. Or maybe like the lady–I don’t know how old she is or what brought her here, exactly, but she always waves and smiles from her room whenever I pass. Her trailer burnt to the ground about 5 years ago, and she was just getting back on her feet. Or so she says; she didn’t come in with much in the way of clothes, and we had to raid the lost and found to give her changes of clothes. She speaks of how she was always poor from childhood, but that she wouldn’t change anything. It was a happy life, and everyone was so good to her.
There is the obese man who wants to tell you to do everything for him, and thinks he’s tough ’cause he got a tattoo. . .and there’s the wasted away (87 lbs at last weigh in) man who doesn’t want you to even TOUCH his stuff who speaks of his time in army training when he had to live off the land in the California desert, and does things for himself when he really shouldn’t (falling and breaking your bones right about now would be a bad idea, just so you know). There’s the lady with “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” who’s frequently overcome with panic attacks, and the lady who had the stroke who’s so depressed she sobs and sobs when she sees pictures of her family. Because of her stroke, it’s about the only way she can communicate right now, and it’s potent.
There are people who have their family visiting frequently–morning and afternoon–and there are those who are homeless and never have a family visit them. There are people who always seem to have a smile in their eyes and people you can’t seem to get to smile no matter how hard you try.
They are people.
As such, they are dying.
We all do; we all know it.
This is the part where I go:
Knock, knock. Um, God? Remember the part where I don’t work with dying people? Remember that the reason why I went with physical therapy was because people get better? Remember? Remember?
But they don’t. People die. Sometimes we’re further from it than other times, but it’s really only a delusion to say that we save anyone from death. We never really cure people. Sometimes we extend relief; sometimes mercy; sometimes love. But no field of medicine can ever offer a complete cure, a total healing.
I don’t understand why God seems to be telling me, over and over, day in and day out, this is how people get old. And after they get old, they’re going to die. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them from dying; but what are you going to do about getting old? But He won’t let me hide from this. Intertwined, interwoven, invading, unavoidable: you can’t fix other people’s lives, and what are you going to do about your own life?