So, an octogenarian cased my neighborhood today.
Walking Walter the Wonderdoodle, an unfamiliar car passed us. And then it passed us going the other way. And then it came upon us again and parked *in the middle of the street.*
A woman who was 80 if she was a day opened her door. She was looking for an address. I live for these moments and was happy to help, even if she was less than gracious.
“I’m looking for 7111.”
“Hmm … well, that’s 7131, and that’s 7119 …”
“She said it’s on a corner.”
A corner? We’re on a cul-de-sac. I pointed that out and she just looked at me, so I tried a different tact. “What’s the name?”
I don’t know anyone on my street named Taylor. However, I can count. “So, I think 7111 is the green house with the van in the driveway.”
“She said it was on a corner.” The woman let out a huge sigh. “I’ll have to call her.”
And then she slammed her door shut and motioned me along my way. Uh … you’re welcome?
Walter and I walked on. And the woman turned around and passed us, going the absolute wrong way. Then she turned around in a driveway and went back.
We walked farther along. And then she came towards us again, again in the totally wrong direction. It’s the green house with the van! What is so hard about this?
This time, she did a full U-turn in the middle of a busy-ish street. Oh, wow. She had full control of the vehicle, but I dare say her reasoning skills weren’t exactly what you’d like to see among your fellow drivers.
I swear to God, she drove by me another time. I tried to wave her down and she either didn’t see me or completely ignored me. I have no idea if she finally made her way to the green house with the van in the driveway. That’s 7111, even if it isn’t on a corner.
I see her screaming, “She said it was on a corner!!!!” as her last words, fist in the air. Maybe it will be her epitaph.
On one hand, I tried to help a grouchy old lady and she blew me off and might still be driving up and down the street.
On the other hand … it got me thinking about “Flowers for Algernon.” We read it in ninth grade, and I secretly cried, alone in my powder blue bedroom. The tragedy wasn’t that Charlie didn’t have certain capabilities. The tragedy was that he had them and then lost them … and knew what he had lost.
Aging is scary. And I try to face it in others with an extra dose of grace. I’m sure that woman today was frustrated and also angry at herself.
It’s easier if I think of her driving back and forth like a Benny Hill sketch.
But it’s harder if I think about her alone in her car, doubting herself and filling with growing panic.
We all expect kids to need help. But we are surprised or annoyed when adults need help. And when we’re talking about older adults? We expect them to stay young as long as possible, as if being older and acting older is wrong.
I obviously don’t know the answer … or the question, really. Except we all need to be kinder.
And if someone tries to help you, maybe don’t acknowledge it with, “She said it was on a corner!”