“Nurse! Harebrained harridan. Nurse! I know you can hear me! Nurse!”
She’s unbelievable. For all that girl knows I’m lying here breathing my last and she’s so engrossed in her MTV she can’t even hear me. Or probably just doesn’t care. Witch.
“Witch, get up here! Right this min – oh, well it’s about time. Were you waiting perhaps, for a convenient cardiac arrest to shut me up? I need to take my pills now. It’s afternoon, isn’t it? What? Are you sure? I’ve had dinner too? All right, well, I need some ice cubes anyway. Yes. And you can turn that television down. It’s polluting my air. A few more. There.
So patronizing, that woman, so patronizing. I’m so bored. I can’t think of anyone I know that I’d like to talk to who’s not dead. If only I weren’t stuck in this stupid bed I know I’d find something or other to do.
Why does she act like she can’t hear me? That woman, why I have half a mind to-
“Why, yes a matter of fact I did call you. I’m quite aware of the fact that you’re going off duty now. And if my heart muscle decided to go off duty with you you’d probably just point to the clock and shrug. Is the night nurse here yet? Yes, you can go anyway.”
“Just please do me one small service before you leave, dear. Please bring me another of those boxes of papers from the other room. Yes I know they are and I’d gladly help you if I could. Will you just bring me one already, curse you! I’ll put in a good word for you when I get upstairs.”
“Thank you from the bottom of what’s left of my heart. Good BYE!”
And good riddance. Well, let’s see what scraps from the junkyard of the past lie rotting in this mess. Goodness, this is ancient stuff! From school days, some of it! Report cards. Hard to believe, these. I must have put the better ones in another box. Term papers. Compositions. So I was a young fellow once upon a time, after all, heh. I don’t seem to remember much of this and some of it even – why how unusual! This is odd. An unopened letter. Addressed to me. And in my own handwriting?
Now what the devil does this mean – “Not to be opened until 1999”? Well it’s a bit overdue then, I would say. I really don’t remember writing such a letter. It doesn’t make sense. I’ll just tear it open and – there. My, it definitely was sealed well… goodness, the whole letter’s in my own handwriting and… it’s signed by me!
A WORD TO MYSELF ON THE OCCASION
OF HAVING REACHED OLD AGE
I am writing this letter as one writes to a friend, feeling a bond of kinship yet respecting the dissimilitude that characterizes different personalities. Although I am writing to you, my self, the sameness isn’t real. For the differences imposed by time are likely as pronounced as they would be in the case of two totally different beings. Yet we are quite close: I am the teen age you; you, I hope, the elderly me.
I feel compelled to write this letter as a result of having experienced the close company of a group of older folks in the nursing home, some of whom I can recall from my childhood days as they once were. I have been struck by certain things and wanted to put them to paper so that I will be aided in recalling them when I become you.
As least some of the changes that ageing brings are negative. The elderly person’s decline in memory can be sorely complimented by an ill-tempered haughtiness, and the combination of the two can result in a person who is irritable, irascible, mistaken in a good many of his notions yet as certain as he can be that he is quite correct.
The finest, nicest victims of such senility are content to feel to themselves that those around them are basically naïve, and they are satisfied to keep their opinions to themselves. The rash ones, by far the majority, are not happy until they torment those around them with their mistaken convictions and can act obnoxiously without the slightest realization of the fact. To them, the years have brought only physical deterioration, not mental. And only an un-deteriorated mind can judge deterioration of mind. An affected mind views itself through itself and will not detect any failure of mental ability any more than a shrinking man in a shrinking universe would detect any change of scale.
Hence my writing to you, me. Through this communication you have the advantage of being cautioned by someone outside yourself (yet yourself) and warned to beware of the insidious menace of age, which can destroy personality and is by nature undetectable to those whom it infects.
Please look at yourself. Have you (I) changed for the worse over the years? Do you – we – intimidate or irritate people and make unreasonable demands of them? Are we hateful, spiteful, petty, begrudging? If so, the recognition of it may just be the beginning of its reversal. Senility might be affected by the senile’s recognition of the fact. We may be the one with the opportunity of demonstrating so, thanks to the foresight of your own young self.
Please, old me, know yourself and judge yourself. Realize where and what you may be, and let your awareness prevent or reverse your dissolution of mind. Save us.
Well this can certainly go in the garbage pile. I definitely had some weird ideas back when I was a kid. Not just weird. Stupid. Idiotic Kids are all just idiots anyway… where IS that nurse?… Doesn’t the witch know it’s time for my pills…?
© 2014 Avi Shafran