9/4/07

Dignity In The Diner

Lately I've been thinking a lot about growing old and maintaining dignity.
I've been thinking about how I envision myself still vibrant and active when I hit my elder years.
I don't know if that is what will happen.
But that's what I hope for myself.

I've seen many an elderly person turn into a bitter shell of the young people they once were.
I listen to the lonely in their voice and think I'd probably sound just as scared and bitter when faced with this kind of lonely and/or this kind of pain on a daily basis. Who could stand to live with such physical pain?
Not to mention, feeling worthless and left behind.

I think each gender struggles with that worthless feeling, but in different aspects.
Males feel it after a life spent working and providing and no longer being able to do so.
And females feel it after a life spent working and caretaking and no longer feeling needed and valuable.

And of course growing old with dignity, I'm mindful of how our bodies and our minds can turn on us on a dime and we have no control over that either.
And again, just how scary that must be.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

On Saturday, we rolled out of bed early, threw on some clothes and took the kids to our favorite diner for breakfast.
And can I quickly just tell you how much I adore going out to breakfast on a weekend morning?
I LOVE it. I love sitting down to a cup of coffee made by someone else and being waited on.
The anticipation of the meal.....
Anyway...we all love this diner.

We walk in and there is a crowd by the door waiting to be seated.
Gracie is hanging out in my arms "being shy".
And Connor is dancing around the register counter waiting to pick out his lollipop (don't ask) with Rav.

Gracie and I head off to one side as the door/register/waiting area are very close together and we are trying to leave room for people to walk through.
And as we're standing there I look over to my right (where there is an alcove of sorts with about 6 booths and a narrow walkway to get to those booths) and there is an elderly gentleman with a walker. He is trying to make his way to his table and gets stopped by a fellow female patron who knows him. He apparently has been battling a cold and has stopped to ask him how he's feeling and just generally speak to him.
As they are speaking a waitress and a female buser (is it with 2 s's?) are waiting to get by.
The waitress gets huffy and walks away.
And the buser tries to scoot past and can't.
So she waits.
Another female buser walks up to her and they begin speaking in their native language and are most obviously talking about this gentleman.
The waitress then walks back and sees he is now making his way back to his booth, very slowly, but is making his way nonetheless.
And as she is standing behind him, she is shaking her head and muttering nastily under her breath.
The poor fellow gets the wheel to his walker stuck, which hinders his forward motion, and her agitation grows.
(Mind you, this woman - the waitress - is middle-aged. Probably in her late 50's).

I was so taken aback by such passively cruel behavior.
Never once did she offer to help him.
Never once did she try to move him along by simply talking to him and escorting him to his table.
And he didn't even know the subtle "cruelty" that was being pushed in his direction.
Which is probably for the best.
But I saw it.
And it bothered me.
And I did nothing.

I worry about elders and those incapable of caring for themselves being subjected to cruelty in facilities - let's face it, it happens - it's happening in my home state right now. Today.
And fret over what is being done to these people or not done.
And I can't do anything about it.
I'm one person who can't save the world.

But here I was in a public place and saw such a disgusting display of intolerance.
And I chose to do nothing.
Because I was waiting in line with my family to get served a $5.00 breakfast.
And I chose to not act.

This got me thinking about all of the times we choose not to act over things we think are "little" or "benign". And how they really add up.

We might not see how one action or inaction effects the other, but they do.

I again do my infamous projecting and wonder if I would want someone to stand up for me or help out if that were me or Rav in that restaurant.
And of course, the answer is yes.
Those of us who can, need to rally for those who can't for themselves.

Little kindnesses.
Little kindnesses.
Growing older and growing period, with dignity.

I'm still working on it.

9 ripples in the pond:

Oh, The Joys said...

I imagine you will be as kind in your later years as you are now and that will be repaid to you over and over again.

I plan to be the queen of the elder hosteling circuit.

deb said...

So next time you can help. You don't have to beat yourself up. Why the waitress was like, who knows?

flutter said...

Next time you can call her on her shit, and then send the nice man a cup of coffee.

It's hard to see that, no matter what the situation

Aliki2006 said...

You are kind--sometimes moments slip us by and we regret what we did or didn't do.

Beck said...

I don't always feel up to jumping up and defending the helpless, and then afterwards I'm full of self-loathing. But I have some AMAZING elder role models, and so I'm not scared of getting old and getting REALLY GOOD at being crochety.

KC said...

What's worse, I think, is when the elderly are not only physically frail but maybe with dementia--it seems like the dignity and respect that should come so easily, don't for some people. It's really disheartening.

Her Grace said...

In many cultures elders are respected for their wisdom in longevity. In America, we make rude noises at them for being slow. How sad.

Don't beat yourself up -- now you've taught us all a lesson, right? Next time, we'll ALL stand up and say something.

jen said...

i plan to be carrying Jess' bags as she goes.

seriously, you are noticing. you are helping. it matters. and yes, it's sad.

carrie said...

It got you thinking, didn't it? And that's what will get the ball rolling . . .

It's so hard to go back and forth in you mind, trying to decide if you should do something, what you should do and when you should do it and before you know it, the opportunity is lost. I've been there, a number of times.

It gets easier, and the decisions come easily with practice!