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The Walker

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I may not be 80, but my body is crumbly and willful too.

old woman with walker

Amy Brenneman: I go to the doctor's a lot these days. I never used to. Until the age of 35, I felt virtuous if I got a pap smear every leap year. I was in excellent health, and "aging" was a concept reserved for others.

Now I go a lot. I have a "condition" that is chronic and unresponsive to an arsenal of medications we throw at it. (Amazingly, I still lead my life, but a surgical solution is most likely in the offing. I am not concerned, diehard optimist that I am.) The rooms themselves are hushed and poorly lit. I used to find them utterly claustrophobic. There is no music. The magazines are old. Not an iPhone in sight, except for mine, as I periodically raise a smoke signal to the 21st century.

That was then. Now I've surrendered to those rooms and have actually come to love them, love my rheumy-eyed, walker-usin', hunched-over octogenarian brothers and sisters who wait with me there. Because in those rooms, I don't need to accomplish a thing. The relentless demands of day-to-day living -- parenting, careering, SAVING THE WORLD -- fall away, and all we need to do is be there, now, and attend to these crumbly, willful bodies. I may not be 80, but my body is crumbly and willful too.

Today I was caught behind a woman and her walker in a back hallway. She raised the metal bracket deliberately over and over, gingerly releasing the front tennis balls on the worn carpet. At first I tried to keep up with the pace of this century -- I strode defiantly behind her, and then tried to pass her on the left.

Whoosh. The tennis balls veered left.

I weaved right.

Swoosh. Tennis balls right.

I considered tapping her on the shoulder, but for what? To startle her, so that I could get to the elevator five seconds earlier? This outing was her day. The preparation for it, anticipation of it, exertion, and inevitable recovery -- both mental and physical -- that would take until suppertime. And did I want to be in the middle chapter, playing the part of the pushy a**hole who couldn't wait for the elevator five extra seconds?

I didn't want to play that part today.

I slowed my pace and walked as the tennis balls walked. Up with the right foot -- and down. Here comes the left, and -- down. I breathed as she breathed, and she never even knew I was there. We breathed the same breath, the walker and I, and nursed our battered bodies in communion.




next: Painfully Obvious: 15 Useless Studies
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi January 22, 2010, 7:58 AM

Love that, I think we need so much more of this in the world today. I really make an effort to teach my kids to not only respect the elderly, but empathize with them and theit situation. After all, it will be us someday. And really, is that 5 seconds really worth upsetting someone over. Great Job, thanks for putting this out there.

Di January 22, 2010, 12:04 PM

dearestHi, I also walk through hospitals a lot, and i’ve done it so many t know, times… I dont why, i slow down… maybe because i look to those coordenated movement and i see the efford that the person make to work it out… and i dont think is my right to descoordenate that… so.. i walk behind, while everyone is pumping me down, or the old person…
i just get that moment were i’m im peace behind her/him, and letting the person conduce my breef moment of my life…

Rachel  January 22, 2010, 1:44 PM

You write so eloquently, and it’s just so genuine. I love it. And reading this, I realized that I do this too in hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc. Walking behind an elderly person or just anyone who walks slower, forces me to slow down and take in more of the world or even just to relax a bit and not be in such a hurry all of the time.

Thanks for writing, Amy.

~Rachel~

Sabine January 23, 2010, 4:48 AM

Nice, Amy :) I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with hospital wards but they do have a habit of growing on me. Their inhabitants, mostely, and their ways of slowing you down. Be that by walking tennisballs, or just the realisation that all of their lives, like your own, have stopped rolling on as smoothly as they used to. Something very rooting about it that never ceases to make me smile.

Nancy February 9, 2010, 12:38 PM

We really do need much more of this…like you said, how much of a difference would it make to try and jet ahead of her ;) I realized this even more so now that I struggle with a Chronic Pain condition (at 33 years old) and tend to sometimes be the girl, slowing down the flow of people around me…lol. On particularly slow days, I try to stay out of dodge, as many people will not take the time to slow down, and instead, they’ll just plow though ;)

Glad I found your blog! I look forward to continue ready your posts.

Nancy

cheapviagra7650 August 30, 2010, 10:01 AM

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