She was a sprightly older woman, one of many I hosted for lunch at the retirement community at which I worked. Certainly quite active, intelligent and . . . apologetic. After she ordered a sandwich, she apologized for not ordering the daily special. “Not a problem,” I said, thinking nothing of it.
A few days later, when I spoke with her on the phone, she apologized again. “It’s nothing to apologize about,” I reassured her. “Don’t worry about it,” figuring it was just one of many dietary likes or dislikes people may have. “It’s not important. I wasn’t concerned about it.” Then, she explained why she hadn’t ordered it and ordered the sandwich instead.
When she was younger, she explained, she had been struck by lightning. She had survived, but when the bolt exited her body, it had exited out of her fingertips—destroying any fine finger movements forever. She was unable to hold (let alone use) a fork, knife or spoon. And it embarrassed her.
To say I was shocked would be a bad pun, but I was (and it is). I simply strove to reassure her that it was nothing to be ashamed of. What-so-ever. She had survived one of the most devastating events that can occur to a human. And persevered for many years. She was a survivor in every sense of the word.
It’s easy for seniors to feel sorry for themselves as they journey along the gray mile. Whether it is related to their health, lack of education or any one of another one hundred and one things they did or didn’t do over their lives. The important thing is to help them put it in perspective. They’re still there. Many of their friends aren’t. And it just may be that what they consider a fault is something that others would stand in awe of.