When I’m Eighty-something

It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out stop at the drug store for a couple things I’d run out of. I found the first item quickly and easily, scanned a couple more aisles as rapidly as I could without drawing the attention of an employee. I hate that “may I help you?” when I know I’ll soon find it on my own. OK, eventually then. But I’ll find it. Thanks anyway.

Ahhh-yes. There we are. The second item was on sale so picking up two instead of one, I turned and walked briskly toward the check-out.

This could be record-time… I thought to myself. And then I saw them. There in front of me at the checkout was a slow-moving elderly couple. …Well, maybe not.

This wasn’t one of those couples you see in television commercials for a newly constructed retirement village. You know the type, gray-haired but fit and trim, vivacious and energetic. No, this was the sort of couple you’d see in a documentary about aging. How tall had she been when she was a young woman? It was impossible to tell; her stooped shoulders and the curvature of her spine had long-since stolen her youthful stature. She was wrinkled. Pale. Fragile-looking. Yet somehow her outlook had remained bright despite her age. She clutched her purse handle securely with both hands, her wedding band worn thin long ago. Though her curls may have caught a photographer’s eye back in the day, today they were snow white, content to simply frame her smile and eyes that smiled at her world from behind thick lenses.

Next to her stood her man, wallet in hand, his round form leaning against the walker propped against the check-out stand. Bald and sporting glasses as old as his grandchildren, he joked with the teenager behind the counter, and then with his wife as he waited for her to count out his change.

So much for being in a hurry.

The pulse of his tremors shook the dimes and quarters into the little coin purse he slid back into his pocket and he reached to accept the Walgreens bag his kind cashier held out to him. Adjusting his glasses a bit, he turned to his wife of many years. “Would you like to come with me, young lady?”

I found myself smiling as I looked on.

“Why thank you. Yes, I’d like that. I have to be in by ten, you know,” she smiled up at him.

When was the last time you saw a woman in her eighties flirt? Hmm? Tell me when.

“We’ll have you home in plenty of time.” He smiled. Still looking up at his kind face she hooked her arm through his elbow. I watched them them turn and with tiny steps behind his walker move carefully toward the automatic door at the entrance.

I was still smiling when I set my trio of items on the counter. “How sweet,” I commented.

The cashier returned my smile with a hint of a tear in her eye, “SO sweet!”

My transaction complete, I stepped from the store into the evening air and looked toward my car. There, at the curb was the cute old couple, still getting situated in their sedan. I saw the elder gentleman close his passenger’s door for her, having helped his dear little wife take her seat and pull her skirts in safely behind her. Silently –politely– I watched the old man follow his walker around the rear of the car, open the rear door on the driver’s side and stow his walker behind the driver’s seat. Unhurriedly, almost gingerly it seemed, he opened his own door door and eased himself into place, his bride waiting patiently, her purse in her lap.

I couldn’t help but smile at them as I passed, and the old woman looked up, smiled and waved a little as I went by her window.

“If I’m lucky, I’ll have a sweetheart like that at my side when I’m what… eighty-something?” Then opening my car door and sinking into the seat behind my steering wheel, I considered it again.

“You know, if I’m good —no— if I’m half the man that old guy is, my sweetheart will be happy when we reach that age. HIS sweetheart certainly is!”

It wasn’t the New Year —it wasn’t even close— but I made a mid-year resolution as I turned onto the street and merged into traffic. “I will. Yes, sir, I can. And I will.”

(First-written in my journal in 2005.)

4 Replies to “When I’m Eighty-something”

  1. teachmedad

    Great article! I saw my mom and dad all the way through. They honeymooned 65 years – she just passed away in April at age ninety.

    Phil, you are an incredible writer. What is your training? I have just recently taken an interest in writing. I’m having fun at it but when I read my stuff, it seems kind of herky-jerky. Yours has such a smooth flow.

    Well, I’ll keep working at it. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    Del Gibbs

  2. Phil

    Hi Del,

    Thanks SO much for the kind words! Isn’t it a privilege to come from a family where “til death do us part” means what it said at the altar?

    I read SEVERAL of your posts this morning when I stopped by your place. I like how “right there” your things are. I felt like I could have been right across from you as you penned some of them. Once writing gets in your blood you can just tell the doctors to forget about doing anything to fix things 🙂

    My training
    -(reminding myself of writing’s 5 B’s – Be Brief, Brother, Be Brief)-
    is in the field of worship ministry. I grew up in the parsonage and Dad was a softspoken wordsmith in the pulpit. He could say more in twenty minutes than most can in twice that time. He passed away in August of 2002 and it was my honor to have his memorial service.
    I earned my M.A. in Ministry from Moody in 1997. Currently the fire raging within is to help churches realize the potential they have to make disciples right in the choir loft, right in the instrument section, and with kids and teens as well as adults.

    It’s a new endeavor for me, and I ask God every day to let me influence His people when and where He wants.

    I’m glad to make your acquaintance – all the way from HI to WI! God has good things in store!


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