A month ago I brought my computer to a technician who was, of course, one-fourth my age. I ticked off a long list of problems I was having with the machine. The 23-year-old listened politely to the issues and finally interrupted my complaining by saying, “Sir, we can fix a few of the problems, but the main thing is that your computer is old.”
Immediately after hearing the techno wizard’s diagnosis, I thought, “That’s exactly what my primary doctor says to me.”
I accepted as accurate what the tech said, and I bought a new computer. I also accepted what my primary said, but of course that’s where the analogy comes to a screeching halt. I can’t buy a new body; can’t even buy a new memory.
There’s a joke getting passed around among my fellow travelers in the slow lane of life: Two elderly couples got together for dinner. After the dishes were cleared, the women retreated to the kitchen and the old geezers sat in the two recliners in the living room.
“Anything new?” John asked Larry.
Larry thought for a moment, slowly going through his memory files. “Yeah,” he finally replied. “We tried a new restaurant in town and liked it a lot.”
“Cool. What is its name?”
Larry went back to his files, but after a minute of searching, he came up empty. then he switched his strategy and asked his longtime friend,” You know that flower? It’s red and has thorns on its stem? What’s it called?”
“You mean a rose?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” said Larry who turned his head toward the kitchen and hollered, “Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we tried out?”
My fellow septuagenarians and octogenarians laugh every time we hear it — because we keep forgetting the punchline!
I’m even slower than most of my peers. Not only did I turn 76 last month, but I also have this progressive neurological disorder that makes my walking speed about the same as that famous turtle in the tortoise and the hare story.
In the slow lane, one symptom tends to aggravate the others. For example, I decide I need to get something from the kitchen, but it takes me so long to get there that in the process I forget what I went there for!
When I’m entering Louie’s for breakfast, more times than not someone will run to hold the door open for me, and often they will tell me as I lift my walker over the threshold, “Take your time.”
I close my eyelids so the well-meaning folks don’t see my eyes roll. “Take your time,” I say to myself. “Like I have a choice. Take your time is my middle name.”
When I started using a walker 10 years ago, I said to my daughter who was in her late 30s at the time, “I resist using my walker because it makes me look like an old grandpa.”
“Dad,” she replied. “You are an old grandpa!”
It helps a lot to joke about the losses that go with aging, especially with fellow travelers in the slow lane.
But there are many blessings that can accompany aging as well as losses. For example, would you rather be smart or wise? When I was young, I was smart in some ways but pretty stupid in others.
It’s like the airplane pilot who comes on the public address system in the 737 he’s flying and says to the passengers, “Ladies and gentlemen. I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we’re lost. The good news is we’re making real good time!”
A few years after I was diagnosed, I was hobbling along a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, when I heard footsteps approaching behind me, so I stepped off the trail. I turned and saw this beautiful, young woman coming down the trail.
“Go ahead,” I said. “I’m really slow.”
“No,” she replied. “I’ll walk with you for a while.”
“Don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming,” I said to myself.
We walked together for maybe five minutes. After saying “Take care,” she paused and added, “You know. You probably see more because you’re going slowly.”
Sometimes when we are pursuing life, as if it is getting away from us, it helps to stop and let life catch up to us. Getting old and disabled has forced me to do what I wish I had done more of when I was young.
Back then I set goals for myself and drove as fast as I could into that future I assumed would be happier than what I had where I was at. If you talk to business owners in town, they will say that in this competitive economy you have to drive in the fast lane just to keep up.
But making good time might get you further away from where you really need to go.