By Rebecca F. Rikleen, a member of Get Your Wordsworth
I am 89. I go to senior centers where I paint along side other older men and women. We are happy to see that we each made it, and we greet one another with congratulations and solicitations. So I am familiar with the long list of ailments that come with age.
Even with exercise and rest and good diet I am turning deaf and blind and unsteady. I know the script from phone calls and visits, all the thorns and barbs, the horrors of old age. I don’t want to spend visiting time hearing the list. There is a world to watch and attend to.
But on the bus in our busy city I see, and marvel at the nerve of shaky old men, shriveled old women, up and about. We stop the bus for a wheel chair, or two wheel chairs, sometimes leaving a third wheel chair on the curb to wait for the next bus.
They are heroic, these declining physical wrecks. They can barely walk; they fall and break bones; they use canes and walkers. But they move about. They risk the steep steps, the jerky stops and starts of a bus in traffic. They come; they go; brave, engaged, fighting the dragon, facing the storm, spitting at fate, breaking out of cemetery village.
I am one of them. I navigate the steep mountains of Riverside and Tieman, down to the bottom of Broadway valley. From there I scale the summit to the screaming elevated train. Later I scorn the winds when the bus is late, all this battle to arrive at my oasis of seniors to paint a tree. Afterwards I tackle the snares of returning. Finally, safely back home, I glory with triumph, Olympic-medal triumph.
We useless, lived-too-long society discards achieve a triumph every time we venture out. It is a small triumph but real.
We are heroes all. And the other passengers know it. They wait patiently in line to board. They offer a seat. They acknowledge their elders as in ancient times, this time not looking for wisdom of experience, but showing compassion for the physical injuries. They know they are looking at their future.