I stood above the table where my elderly couple sat, quickly growing impatient as the time it took to take their order dragged from 5 minutes to ten, the little old man sat there looking confused, his neck shrunken into his narrow shoulders, his brown rimmed glasses perched on his nose as he intently studied the menu. His wife sat across from him, dragging her hands lazily through the air as she tried to explain to me what Les Miserables was, seeming to completely forget the task at hand. She told me for the umpteenth time how the four hour program had scrambled her mind as I nervously looked around at my other patients, knowing that orders were up and undoubtedly becoming soggy underneath the heat lamp. After summarizing the second act and having me repeat the specials no less than ten times, I was released and scurried to the kitchen, cursing the host for having sat me the party from hell.
I attended to my other parties, made my apologies for the delays on deliveries, and collected myself before heading back to the couples table to tell them their food would be up shortly. Having relaxed a bit, I felt my sense of calm coming back to me, and knowing everyone else had been taken care of, I sunk into a crouch at the head of their table as the woman once again began talking to me. Her husband casually glanced around, barely noticing me. She babbled on a bit about business, some more Les Miserables, and suddenly stared intently at me. “How old do you think I am?” I took her in, in her bright pink turtle neck, tidy strand of beads around her neck, curls close to her head, and large frame glasses magnifying her eyes. Her skin gently folded in at the eyes, and the veins popped on her hands.
“I’d say somewhere in your 60’s” I replied, trying to appease her without being absurd and saying 25 like some wise cracking guy would. She narrowed her eyes.
“Be straight with me.” I laughed.
“Okay, mid to late seventies,” she grinned, then went serious.
“I’m in my late eighties. But I don’t feel it.” She settled into her seat and looked at me, waiting for a response, which came almost automatically.
“I don’t think anyone ever feels that they’re getting old.” I immediately felt so guilty for my impatience with her before. So often I feel like we take for granted what our elderly have done in their lives, when they were once 18 and felt invincible just as we did. We’re going to grow old too, watch our youth disappear, find a stranger looking back at us in the mirror. Just because a body ages doesn’t mean the mind within it does. Yesterday knocked me down on my ass, and made me realize how ignorant I am sometimes. The couple ended up being one of my last parties remaining, and what started out as a huge annoyance ended up being one of the pleasanter nights on the job. You learn lessons when you’re least expecting them.