Slow drivers. Long lines. No price tag on the last item on the shelf. Rude customer service reps. What makes you impatient? What makes you stutter with anger and talk out loud to yourself? Notice I didn’t list the elderly…you know, old people…someone born about 25+ years before me. Why didn’t I list the ‘elderly’ as something or someone that makes me impatient? Well, quite simply my parents are elderly, by definition. Of course I used to see elderly as decrepit and unaware of their surroundings or unable to care for themselves. I hope that’s not a harsh description, but that’s what Hollywood would make us believe. But that’s not who my parents are…at least not in my mind. They’re my parents. The same people who taught me how to ride a bike, make science projects, learn how to change a tire and make grits and scrambled eggs. What I think we have to do is remember that one day we’ll all grow old, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (old folks’ saying).
So having said all of that, how many of us scream at the elderly when they turn slowly at the corner stop sign or drive 35 mph in a 60 mph zone? I stopped getting mad at elderly drivers several years ago. See, driving is their last tidbit of freedom. Should they be driving? Of course not. They are endangering the themselves and the lives of others. But, sometimes driving makes them feel young again and makes them feel in control because so much of their lives are out of control. And if no one is there to help them, how else can they get fresh milk or buy something to eat?
My mom stopped driving a couple of months ago, after her second stroke on Father’s Day. Even when she was taking chemo, she was driving. Probably wasn’t the safest idea, but she was fiercely determined that cancer wasn’t gonna take her freedom so no one could stop her. But now, I can’t remember the last time she drove her beloved Honda Element. That breaks my heart. How many of you would feel lost if you could never drive your car again? EVER. How many of you would feel like you’re held captive because you have to wait on someone else to take you to the store or go out to dinner? You’re active in many other ways, but you just don’t know the freedom of the road. How sad.
I’ve learned the art of patience through the eyes of my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother was the most independent woman I know; especially for someone born way back in 1911. My grandmother drove until they took away her keys. My mom didn’t have a choice. I guess deep down she knew that driving wasn’t possible after a while.
So I’ve developed patience with the elderly when they are in line at the post office or grocery store. Or waiting at a stop light that turned green 10 seconds ago. I’ve learned how to be patient with elderly women who can’t reach the shelves in the grocery store and I reach to get that can of corn for them. They’re shopping all alone with no one to help them. All we have to do is put ourselves in their position…wouldn’t we want someone to help us?
Tomorrow, practice the art of patience. Take a couple of seconds to help or pray for an elderly person before you decide to mumble curse words under your breath. That could be your mom, dad or uncle trying to exert some independence. After all, if the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, that will be you one day trying to back out of the driveway without hitting the mailbox.