When we first moved into our home about eight years ago, there was a very petite, very elderly-looking woman who walked up and down the street every morning. She looked so strong and hardy for her obvious advanced age. I wanted to take my kids, ooch over, and flag her down to chat, but always just waved shyly and said “good morning.” The reason I was so hesitant? Plain and simple: I had no idea what to say to her.
Things that were readily apparent…..she lived alone, she had lived a long, long life, she seemed friendly enough, should have made it easy to strike up a conversation. Were you married once? Has your husband passed away? How long have you lived here? But where to start? What to say? What if I offended her? What if she couldn’t understand me well and it was painfully awkward.
Well one day, I did it.
It took way too long to work up the courage. She was friendly. I wanted to visit her more, though it was pretty awkward. Where to start with following God’s commands? By visiting the sweet widow two houses down! I really wanted to. Or a part of me did. But I didn’t. I regret it so much. I tried to catch her to say hello now and then as she was walking by; told her to please feel free to call if she ever needed anything. We took her a cinnamon roll on Christmas morning once. I didn’t completely ignore the leading to befriend her. But I didn’t do it as well as I wish I had.
I’m going to just come out with it. Elderly people make me nervous. Always have. Ever since I was itty bitty and visiting my great grandparents. They always wanted us to sit on their laps. I was terrified. And my great grandpa’s skin reminded me of mashed potatoes. For some reason this terrified me, too. Terrible. But I was a kid and you know….childish folly and all. So what’s my excuse now?
Obviously, the truth is, the elderly have so much wisdom to impart.
They deserve our respect and aren’t scary. And can’t we imagine being the lonely ones in the winter of our lives? Wouldn’t we want to be visited by neighbors with young kids? Asked about our lives? Yes. I know I would.
The story goes on…..one day about five years ago, my husband and son were playing in the driveway and my husband struck up a conversation as she walked by (I love that man). She turned to come closer, took a step into our driveway, and tripped. Tripped right over that hump that aggravated me before, but now makes me sad just about every time I see it. She fell down and broke her hip, right there in our driveway. My husband stayed with her and another neighbor called for an ambulance.
We went to visit her in the hospital. I’m pretty sure we took her flowers and I know my son made her a picture. She got to come home, but we never saw her walking up and down the street again. She could barely make it down the driveway to her mailbox.
And then, we didn’t see her anymore. Her son moved in. It was obvious he had a mental disability and he didn’t seem friendly when we asked about her. So I didn’t visit. No more Christmas cards. No more cinnamon rolls. I gave in to the fear of awkwardness. We visited neighbors we knew better, who were more inside my comfort zone. But not Mrs. E.
I was afraid she had died and I had missed my last opportunity, but just the other day, my husband was able to find out from her son that she is in one of the nursing homes in town. So my kids and I, we’ve prayed together that God will help us find her and calm our fears (we’ve all been open about our fears) about going to visit her. Will she remember who we are? Will she be able to understand us? Will we have things to talk to her about? I’ve realized I have the exact fears that they do. Maybe I’ve grown up a little….no more mashed potato terrors. I do really want to visit her and try to brighten her day if we can. Would you pray with us if it comes to mind? I’ll keep you posted.
And that’s what you call making yourself accountable.