I hope I will change when I need to change, because I’ve had another wake up call. I hate realizing what I’m REALLY like.
I go to a circuit training class for seniors. It has great entertainment value, which keeps my mind occupied as I do the dreaded exercises. I face the room from the machines and survey my classmates. We are a motley crew: from a spry 80+ woman who can demonstrate jumping jacks to a heavy-set gentleman who only moves with a cane. I don’t need my IPod or TV in this class. I spend my time chatting, laughing and listening to loud music from Fats Domino’s era.
Some days when I’m introspective I make up stories about the lives of my classmates. My imagination can work overtime so reality differ from my scenario. And the lesson is the same.
I had missed a lot of classes so the place was full of strangers to me. It was a large group that day and when class is crowded, we are partnered: one person works on the machine while the partner does aerobic (sort of) movement in the center.
As we were pairing off, I saw a woman standing close to her partner. They were younger than most of us. She looked a bit as if she were “hovering” but life partners often work together, so I didn’t think much of it. She walked with him to the first machine and showed him the settings and the operations – still normal for a first time participant.
Then I noticed the way he looked at her. Watching her face, he followed her movements, and cheerfully waited for her instructions. She nodded to him, put her hand on his arm and walked to the center, glancing back to see that he had started. His eyes fastened on her as he went through the motions.
When the trainer said “time” she quickly returned to her partner and guided him to the trainer who held his hand as he marched in time to the music. She then came back and led him to the next machine. Same process, same trusting look, same gentle assistance and same hyper-awareness between the two of them.
I went through the routines in a fog; vacillating between living their life, questioning myself and recalling another acquaintance whose husband suffered dementia. In his case it was Alzheimer’s. That woman played golf with understanding friends as her husband rode in her cart, watching and waiting for her. She was always mindful of him. I never saw her impatient or frustrated.
I have a dear friend and client who suffered early onset of Alzheimer’s and I HATE his wife for the way she treats him. I try to tell myself that I don’t know what it could be like, but I see her as inhumane.
So where in the spectrum would I fall? Will I be a willing patient, smiling and following all instructions? It will take a huge shift! Will I be a loving caregiver? I like to think so. Or do only saintly humans show such patience and tenderness? Will I get more of that if or when I need it?
I know how I am now. I wouldn’t be good as the “carer” or the “caree”. On a day to day basis, it is hard to deal with “senior moments”. I love my husband and am often tender, but I don’t think he would describe me that way when he is forgetful. I’m impatient when he doesn’t remember to go by the bank; irritated when I have to repeat myself and often a bit condescending about it even though I, myself, can’t remember what I am wearing unless I look down. Both of us forget and neither of us is out of the ordinary for our age.
But, what if…? I think I’d better practice.