“Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.”
“God DAMMIT!” Stella blurted after stopping at her doorway. She’d maneuvered her walker to her entryway and was fumbling for her keys. We said our hellos as we passed by, were almost to mom’s door when it happened. At Stella’s proclamation, we tried not to look at each other. We smiled. Stella could not see our faces.
You know that moment when you’ve heard something, something startling or funny, and you WANT to look but it’s too soon? You are too close physically but social protocol requires a few minutes to pass before you can look without being obvious. You pretend to ignore it, act like nothing happened. You try very hard not to look. Because you know that if you look too soon, they will be glaring daggers, at you. You can feel it. This was that moment.
Stella (not her real name) is mom’s friend. I’d met her, we’ve chatted on several occasions. Stella lives near mom in Independent Living. Both ladies are leaning on 90. At their age, are they not entitled to swear when looking for their keys?
A couple days ago I had lunch with two of the best friends a girl could ask for. A few minutes after we’d eaten, I headed for the restroom. I entered the stall, turned, and with my right arm reached up to close the door. That’s when someone blurted, “God DAMMIT!” I was horrified. Who said that?! I was the only one in the double stalled room, so it could have been me. After business, I left the stall and headed to wash my hands. With my right arm, I reached forward to turn on the faucet. That’s when I heard someone drop an “F” bomb. The truth is, I’m almost, practically certain it was me.
When I was in college–fine! It MAY have occurred on occasion a few times since, maybe–I had a potty mouth. (Didn’t we all? Right, that’s no excuse.) But this? This is not the Karen most people know. We had to stop cussing when we had children. So, what gives?
Life. Usage. Living. And, what could be more normal?
I’ve been dealing with what appears to be a rotator cuff injury; it’s my right arm and I am right-handed. Years of working in a field that requires one to raise their arms repetitively can be the cause. Since I prefer to heal from within-try to find the cause before I start popping pills or allow surgery–I wanted to find exercises, try them, and see what happens (and, of course, seek medical advice if this does not help).
Meantime, I’ve discovered that a plethora of bad language unintentionally escapes when I use that arm. It hurts to shower, to use my hair dryer and brush my teeth. To reach out and upward, every single time. It hurts to sleep on that side. It takes very little to make that arm hurt. It’s not a dull ache. It freakin’ hurts.
I’ve started the exercises. I am using massage. It hurts. “No pain, no gain,” they say. Fine. But, certain words slip out of my mouth, completely unintentional proclamations. Bad words. Did I mention it hurts? That’s when I remembered Stella. And, I realized something.
When we heard Stella’s outburst in the hall, it could be she forgot the correct key. It may have been due to pain. Maybe it hurts to walk; she uses a walker, after all. There may be hip pain. Back pain. Joint pain in several places. She may have arthritic, painful fingers. She may have been unable to see. The lighting in the hall is plenty for me, but I’m not pushing 90. Glare can be a problem with aging eyes. Maybe there were bladder issues, the inability to get to the restroom quickly enough. When you visit Independent Living and see the folks who live there, see how they navigate the halls, how they interact and how they live, understanding dawns about what it takes to get through a day. It ain’t easy for many.
The fact is things don’t work the way they did when we were younger. Some people live with chronic, overwhelming pain, and it can be deadly. And tiring. And frustrating. And sometimes, bad words slip out. And you know? It’s
darned damned OK.
I realized that these bodies take a lot. Living requires wear and tear. Life demands a bit of loss. So, where does that leave us?
It’s possible Stella loves to cuss. Maybe she hadn’t cussed in days and was tired of holding it in. She may have no pain whatsoever. The walker is probably a scam. My gut says she’s a rebel. Maybe she was bored to tears, was facing another day in that apartment alone and wanted to see if her language could start a hall fight. Maybe saying “God DAMMIT!” at exactly 1:15 every day is a family tradition.
We never know why people use the language we hear. We cannot know for sure. Whatever the reason, it’s probably a good one. It does not matter because either way, we are in no position to judge. We haven’t walked in their shoes or experienced what they have lived through.
My guess is they have earned the right to say whatever they
darn damn well please. I say, if they’ve made it that far, if they are leaning on 90, let ‘er rip. Whatever the reason, I reserve the right to smile. Thank you, Stella.
These made me laugh. Enjoy.
As I work through my exercises, I’ll try to temper my mouth. Meantime, if you hear unsavory language in a bathroom stall somewhere in Oregon, it’s probably me.
Just smile, and remember to celebrate aging.
We go around once.