I know more than my share of old people (I am talking 80 and above). I also have to help solve more than my share of their problems on a daily basis. If you doubt the existence of a true circle of life, just come talk to me. It is real…as real as the impact of a full moon on behavior. Okay, maybe a bad comparison if you do not believe that either. Let us just say that both of those things are completely real and make me wish to gouge my eyes out at times.
This past Friday, one of my 80-something friends, let us call her E, came up to me freaking out. Now E is an overly emotional elderly woman. I sometimes like to think of her as a teenage girl with a few extra years. She seems to invite the drama. So, she wheels herself up to me in full panic mode. “Someone has stolen my calendar.” Um…what? So, I go with her to her room and she has a multitude of stuff (aka crap) strewn all over her bed, with dresser drawers still pulled out. I found myself just kind of standing there and saying aloud, “What is going on in here?” E says to me, “Remember that calendar that I bought with my bingo bucks last time? It’s gone and I cannot find it anywhere. Someone has gone through my drawers and taken it.” I really have no idea what calendar she is talking about – she tends to buy every calendar from the bingo store that she can. I point to the calendar hanging on her wall and she says that is not it. She then informs me that she is looking for the animal calendar she bought. I take a closer look at the calendar and see that this calendar is filled with pictures of cats. Cats are animals, right? She is adamant that this is not the calendar she is looking for. I ask her if she gave it to her sister or son when they came to see her. I receive an absolutely not. She then informs me that she has several extra calendars just in case she needs them. Um…the logic in that is not flowing so well for me. I see no reason for having more than one calendar. Well, I help her put her stuff back in her drawers while looking for this elusive calendar. As we worked together to get her room back in order, I see that she has this humongous stack of papers. These are the papers that are handed out with dinner – a little something for everyone to read. I ask her why she is keeping all these because she is going to get the same ones on the same date each year. She informs me that I cannot throw those away – those are her special papers and she likes to keep them. Have I mentioned that E is near-blind? At this point, I put the papers back in the drawer and tell her that the ice cream social is in 30 minutes and I would see her there.
This is not an unnatural situation for me to find myself in on a daily basis. People “losing” things in a mass of crap. At some point during the day, I will ask someone if they really need “this much stuff.” They look at me as if I have lost my mind. I work with a bunch of hoarders but I think there is a reason for this behavior. Looking back, most of the elderly people today have lived through some really awful economic conditions. Those in their 80s and above, would have lived during part of the depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. They have had to ration food, make clothing out of gunny sacks, and save everything to make do. I judge them as hoarders but maybe keeping “stuff” is a way of life for them, a comfort mechanism.
I hate junk just lying around. I like clean lines, organized cupboards, and a workable closet. I regularly go through all my stuff in order to rid myself of the junk. I think this is part of my undiagnosed OCD because I definitely feel more in control and much better after having done this. What am I going to be like as an 80-year-0ld? I have a feeling that I will be grumpy and hermit-like. Will I be a hoarder at that age? I guess time will tell but maybe I should try to refrain from being so judgmental to those who have lived a much longer life. Maybe I still have a few things left to learn.
Peace and Love,
The Mad Pianist