By Loren Hardin –
Ed was 88 years old when we met. He promised his friend he would look after his wife after his friend’s death. Ed orchestrated Gladys’ care, checked on her at least twice a day and eventually hired 24-hour care. During our first meetings we tackled some difficult challenges and took care of some pressing business, but our meetings became less task-oriented and more personal. We shared experiences, ideas, beliefs, and philosophies.
When Gladys’ health declined, keeping her at home became no longer possible and we arranged admission to a local nursing home. It was to be our last visit. Ed signed the form to revoke Gladys from Hospice and I stated, “Ed, I guess this is the last time we’ll be seeing each other.” Ed appeared surprised. But I explained that Gladys was no longer our hospice patient and that I was no longer their Social Worker. Then Ed asked, “But can’t we just meet as friends?”
We’ve met as friends every other Thursday for three years now. Ed frequently brings me a stack of verses, poems, or articles and states, “I thought these might help you in your job. I really like this public relations stuff.” Our meetings are very spontaneous but we always end up on a personally and spiritually relevant and challenging topic. Ed declares, “I like it when we get together unarmed and unrehearsed.”
Ed is now 92 and gratefully proclaims “I give God all the credit for my longevity. He is my pilot and my guide, my judge and my jury.” Ed carries a beeper and cell phone and still does taxes for select clients. He drives about 3.000 miles a month taking his developmentally disabled daughter, Barbie, daily rides in his Ford Escort, “Because she loves it”.
Ed shared, “People tell me all the time, ‘Pops, you’re too old to do that.’ But I just tell them, ‘I don’t count my birthdays I count my blessings. I don’t think about how old I am, I think about the job I have to do’”. Ed added, “When I’m driving I just obey the signs and keep it between the lines,” but he admitted “I get frustrated when I hear people talk about being too old to do this or that.” And he contends, “People get old before their time because they get old in their minds”.
I’m reminded of a Home Care patient I met several years ago. She and her husband were both Polish immigrants and were both in their late 70’s. There was a small piano in the corner of the living room with several “Easy-Play” music books standing on the ledge of the keyboard. I asked, “Who plays the piano?” The husband replied, “My wife does. She always wanted to play the piano, so she started teaching herself about five years ago. And we’ve experienced so much enjoyment singing together.”
One more story and I’ll close. While driving, I was listening to a call-in radio show, and a lady called in for advice about whether to enroll in college to pursue a new career. She shared, “I’m 54 years old. It will take me at least four years to get my degree, so I’ll be 58 years old when I finish.” She then asked, “Dr. Toni, am I too old to start all over?” Dr. Toni asked, “How old will you be in four years if you don’t go back to school and get your degree?”
“May it never be chiseled on your tombstone, ‘Died, age forty, buried age seventy’”. (“Coloring Outside the Lines”, Howard Hendricks)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at (740) 357-6091 or at email@example.com. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.