by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC
As Bette Davis so bluntly put it, “Growing old aint for sissies!”
How right she was. But sometimes things happen — things related to growing old — that are downright funny.
I remember one time when our father, Mark, a retired life insurance salesman, was on the phone as I arrived for a visit. Someone was undoubtedly calling to solicit money for a good cause. Mark listened respectfully and politely said, “No thank you.” The caller continued to explain why the cause was worthy of support. Mark listened some more with a heightened sense of annoyance but remained polite. “No,” he repeated more firmly. The caller persisted nonetheless, until Mark finally reached the end of his patience. “No! I can’t!” he sputtered loudly, “I’m, I’m . . . expired!” and slammed down the phone.
We all laughed heartily at the malapropism, which managed to defuse a tense situation.
Then there was the time we took Mother to a highly recommended geriatric psychiatrist. We went there to discuss an acclaimed new medication reputed to forestall the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
This important practitioner of geriatric psychiatry had his office in an old brownstone just off Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
I knew we were in trouble as soon as I saw the place. There were fourteen steep steps leading to the heavy wrought-iron door that opened into a tiny, dimly lit front hall. What kind of geriatric specialist has an entryway like this, I wondered.
The waiting room was small, cluttered and messy. The walls were painted dull mustard yellow, and the furniture was Goodwill style, circa 1950. The wastebasket was overflowing. The office was a joke — except it wasn’t!
As we settled down to await our consult, my father looked around. With a twinkle in his eye, in a loud and bemused voice, he commented, “If I wasn’t depressed before, I certainly would be now.”
He got no argument from me!
And that probably saved the day. Being able to joke about the surroundings probably kept us all from walking out then and there. After a perfunctory discussion, the doctor prescribed the new medication, but it ultimately had no effect on Mother, neither good nor bad. But I’ll never forget the irony of sitting with my frail elderly parents in a geriatric specialist’s office that was so remarkably unwelcoming — the incongruity of it still makes me chuckle to this very day.
Final pearl of wisdom: Find the humor in situations when you can. These moments will become treasured memories.
Joan Blumenfeld is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For information visit her web site joanblumenfeld.com . © 2010 Joan Blumenfeld.