Friday, November 30, 2007

Growing old with dignity

The other other day I passed an elderly man--I'd put him in his 80s--wearing a luxurious, jet-black toupee. Not only was it an outrageous rug, but it seemed to mock the worn, frail man underneath. I had a couple of condescending thoughts about an old man's vanity and pathetic attempts at holding on to youth. It can't be easy to grow old, I thought--and let it go.

Today, I'm afraid I contributed to another old man's sense of the indignity of growing old. The father of one of our neighbors has been living with them for the past few years now. He's one of those old guys who is constantly doing something--from my perspective, it's always yard work. You can tell that he enjoys it, even though every move is slow and deliberate. Last summer, I mentioned to John that his father-in-law was amazing--I'd even seen him up on their roof.

John sighed. "He's not supposed to be up there," he said. "He really worries us sometimes."

Today, I looked out of my window and saw the old man up on the roof, clearing it of leaves with a leaf blower. I watched in horror as the old man slowly advanced from the flat part of the roof to the slope. He paused often, calculating his movements. I couldn't say anything to him; we'd never exchanged more than hello and goodbye pleasantries. I kept my eye on him, already planning on what I'd say if I had to call 911. I called John on his cell phone instead.

"John," I said. "I hate to be a meddling neighbor, but your father-in-law is on the roof again. And I know you don't want him up there."

"I just blew the leaves off the roof yesterday!" John replied, obviously exasperated. "I'll be right over."

I continued to watch until John arrived a few minutes later to get his father-in-law off the roof. John put the ladder away--probably hid it--and the old man set to work blowing the few leaves left on the ground.

I know I did the right thing, but I can't help but feel that I laid yet another brick on an old man's load of indignities.

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5 comments:

caraf said...

I actually saw that gentleman doing leaf duty when I was driving by your house earlier in the week. However, he was NOT on the roof at the time. I think you did the right thing! And when you get old and do things you aren't "supposed" to, you can remember that guy and feel solidarity after the fact...

Sara Latta said...

It's hard to drive by our houses and NOT see him out doing something in the yard. But if you do see him on the roof, let me know. I'll bust him.

finne017 said...

Sara -
You did the right thing. Max McGee (the late great Packer) is a perfect example of what happens to old men when they decide to work on the roof.

Sara Latta said...

I guess I could google this, but who is Max McGee? Did he fall off a roof?

finne017 said...

He was one of the GB Packer greats. He was clearing leaves off his roof this fall, fell off the roof - and died. The Packer faithful were crushed.