There is something about time in a community where the average age of the residents is 87. It doesn’t mean what it does in the hectic world of business or education or even theatre.
Time is the hour it takes to dress in the morning to come down for breakfast. Time is the 10 minutes it takes to settle into your place for a meal, to pour the water, and open the cracker the package. Time is the 234 steps it takes to get from your apartment to the elevator, fighting for breath every step of the way, but enjoying the company of friends when you finally make it downstairs to meals and activities. Time is the luxury of sharing crossword puzzles and trivia games and sandbag baseball and nine-ball all day long. Time is a happy hour spent with great-grandchildren who come to visit.
But time is also those endless minutes waiting for an ambulance to come, comforting someone who has fallen in the middle of the night, and is hurting from a broken rib or hip. Time is those endless minutes waiting for family to come collect someone for a visit to the doctor because their heart won’t stop racing. Time is a passing thief who taken precious months and even years from a veteran with lung cancer, another with bone cancer, and a highly educated teacher of languages now suffering from Alzheimers.
Time is my biggest opponent in this job – fighting deadlines for paperwork, meeting expectations at meal service, getting staff to accomplish their over-burdened work schedule in too little time. Time is a gift I have not treasured properly before, and it’s time I did.
I see time so differently now. I see how long it takes a person of 88 years to chew their way through a chicken dinner. I see how long it takes a person of 77 with severe arthritis to work her way into a chair to play a little bingo. I see how a lazy summer afternoon can be so easily filled with a nap, a little tea, and a little chatting about times gone by. I see how time doesn’t necessarily mend a broken heart or help forgive a family wrong. I see how unbelievably fast 74 and 82 and 91 years pass by when I see the surprised look on the face of the birthday celebrant as their age is announced as the birthday cake comes into the dining room.
“How did I get to be this old?”
It is no longer possible to take time so blithely any more. I am learning that every moment is a gift, every day is a treasure, and that time is a cruel thief who will steal from everyone, eventually.