For Women in the Second Half of Life
A Cloak of Invisibility Comes with Old Age
I was 63 years old on the outside and ageless on the inside when I drove up to my grocery store’s pharmacy drive-through window to pick up a prescription. I also planned to buy a few groceries, but I knew I would forget to pick up my medicine once I walked inside. At the drive-through, a good-looking young pharmacist waited on me. I remember the conversation seemed witty and flirtatious, and I recall thinking, I’ve still got it! I was feeling pret-ty good about myself as I drove around and parked my Grannivan and walked a little lighter on my feet into the grocery store.
It didn’t take long to pick up the items on my list since everything was stocked, which is something I will never take for granted again, but in the checkout line I realized my credit card wasn’t in my wallet. I figured the pharmacist was a little distracted as he waited on me. I rolled my cart over to the pharmacy window and caught the cute young man’s eye when he looked up from behind a back counter. I gave him a familiar grin as he walked up and asked if he could help me.
“Yes, I think I left my credit card here when I picked up my prescription,” I said, smiling knowingly.
Tall, dark and handsome looked at me blankly. “Oh. Well, who waited on you?”
The sound of air leaking from an inflated ego accompanied the smile sliding right off my face.
Fifteen minutes! It hadn’t been fifteen minutes since we shared witty banter, you young whippersnapper!
That was the first time I realized I had somehow crossed a line and had become invisible to much of the younger population and most men of any age. And this Covid-19 pandemic is compounding problems for the aged. This tiny monster not only targets seniors, as well as those with compromising health issues, but it’s forced the elderly into more isolation and invisibility.
I’m most afraid for my 89-year-old father that I take care of, so I have to be strong and even more careful for his sake. At the same time I forget that I’m part of this senior group, too, until I am reminded of it when my grown kids’ virtual communications sound very fearful for me in their warnings to take care.
My dad and I are most fortunate, though, to live beside younger neighbors who actually see us. Anna to the south put a package of toilet paper on our front porch early in the pandemic. Jessi across the street to the north traded out with me watching her napping baby so she could run to the store for both of us. Ilde to the west has also checked on us, and Devvie (two houses up the street) picked up some items for us, too. I love my neighbors.
Covid-19 has taught us all that life can change in a heartbeat. If people had told me three weeks ago (as I write this) that we would have food lines and grocery shortages, and that I couldn't physically be with my kids and grandkids, or come in close proximity to anybody else, for that matter, I would've laughed in their faces. It's terrifying to see how something so tiny and invisible can travel across the world with such speed and bring the most powerful country to its knees. It is no respecter of persons where it takes up residence, and the virus is devastating lives and economies across the globe. The world is extremely more connected than I realized in ways both good and bad.
Look around for the invisible in your neighborhood and circle of influence and let them know you see them and are willing to help them, if needed. I check on my younger neighbors, too. Building and reinforcing community in the midst of social and physical distancing is one of the positive responses to this pandemic. And when someone offers to help me because they see an old person standing before them, I’ll smile and be grateful that they actually saw me.
Donna Van Cleve
Archived - "Aging"