When I am old
When I am old.
When I begin to curl at the edges like something left too long in the sun.
When I am holding to life like a lamp holding to the last drop of oil.
When I will pass most of my time alone, I will have these moments from my days and nights of caregiving to keep me company.
I will have Rebecca, helpless in the unrelenting grip of Parkinson’s, asking me to hold a spoon in her hand so she can eat her strawberry Jell-o. We both know that most of it will end up on her lap, on the table, on the floor, but still she will smile and say, “That’s the best strawberry Jell-o I’ve ever tasted.”
I will have Alice, who says, “Ask me how I’m feeling today” and, without waiting for my answer, she’ll say, “I’m feeling as fine as a frog’s hair split 84 ways and you know frogs don’t have a lot of hair.” Then she will smile that smile that lights up my heart, even though I know the light in her own heart grows dimmer every day.
I will have Franklin, who stops me throughout Wistory — the same funny story every time — and he will laugh every time until tears run down his weathered face. Perhaps there is something about Alzheimer’s that isn’t all bad.
I will have May-Beth, who has a broken back that will never heal and a spirit that will never be broken. May-Beth, who sings, “Jesus Loves Me” — loudly — and doesn’t care who’s listening. Or who isn’t.
I will have Doc, who says to me every morning, “Welcome to the looney bin.” And when I say, “Doc, that’s no way to talk about the people you live with,” he’ll answer, “I’m talkin’ about you. You have to be crazy to work here.” And he’ll laugh and truly believe he’s slapping his knee in glee, even though he is paralyzed from the neck down.
I will have Joan, who doesn’t remember much of anything anymore, and the day she told me, “I can’t remember how to eat soup, so I’ll just eat ice cream.”
I will have these moments with all of my old friends who teach me every day the true meaning of courage, dignity, honor, grace and faith.
Who still believe and make me believe that anything is possible at any age.
William McDonald is the author of “Old Friends (Endless Love.)” For more information go to oldfriendsendlesslove.com