That was then, this is now
Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

That was then, this is now

My morning routine for the past 10 years, since my retirement, was one that never varied. I woke, usually by 6 a.m and without an alarm, I reached for the pain medication on my bedside table and with the nighttime glass of water not completely empty (dry mouth syndrome occasions several swallows throughout the night), I take the first of the 12 pills my old body will need to keep it running more or less smoothly during the day. I then would go into the kitchen, turn on the coffeemaker, put two “Bed Buddies” into the microwave and while I waited for the two-minute timer and for the I coffee to perk, I add artificial sugar (Truvia or Stevia), and a dollop of plain milk to my mug…the one which reads “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” The timer dings, I pour my coffee (and Bill’s, into a Georgia Tech mug, if he is awake and stirring), carry the warm pads and hot coffee back to the bedroom where I plump my two pillows (yes, one is a My Pillow), and snuggle back in bed where I will read for an half hour or more, waiting for the medication, the coffee, the book, and the heat to do their magic.

There were days when, because I am retired, I fell asleep again and woke when Bill suggested it might be time to get up because “Daylight’s burning” or because my book had fallen on my face and smushed my glasses uncomfortably into my nose! “Good Morning World!”

Going back to sleep, taking that early morning cat nap, is something younger, working folks just can’t do. Oh, they can punch the snooze button, (again and yet again??), which gives a few uncomfortable moments of sleep before the busy routine of their work day must begin. Only on Saturday can they “sleep in,” but … Oh! the kids have a soccer game at 9 a.m. and on Sunday, they need to set that alarm again so as not to be late for church! No wait! All those routines have suddenly come to a halt. Everything has changed in the blink of an eye. 

That was then, this is now.

Yesterday, in an effort to celebrate our granddaughter’s 18th birthday, she and her brother stopped by our house to pick up the cake I had baked the day before and the little Happy Birthday bag with some trinkets I had been putting aside throughout the year (thankfully), for without those few pretties I am afraid there would have been only what Amazon could deliver to make memories on this wonderful day. And I would have had to think way ahead for that to happen…something I am not prone to these days.

They did not dare to come in the house as Bill is especially susceptible to catching the evil virus as he attempts recovery from last summer’s cancer surgery and subsequent treatments with their debilitating side-effects. And so we sat the prescribed six feet apart on the front porch inhaling what seemed like tons of yellow dust—pollen had re-covered every surface and I felt terrible that I had not had time to hose everything down again before Carter and Erin arrived. Air kisses and pantomime hugs, now the “norm,” were exchanged in an effort to be good-natured.

It was strange how, less than three weeks since our “containment,” our little group which included Marge, Bill’s sister visiting from Mississippi (and trapped? Bless her heart), behaved as though this was not an unusual gathering. I offered refreshment but the only thing Carter wanted was tissue for his allergic reaction to the pollen, a decidedly uninvited guest.

I have a small sign hanging from the wire crib frame on my back porch along with a wreath made of cotton blossoms, Bingo cards, antique buttons and photos whose corners are curling; these all have sweet memories. The sign reads “ Old Age: Comes at a bad time.”

Well, yes, it does. Thank you very much. I thought that was pretty funny when I bought it six or seven years ago. Not so much today when I find my glasses in the vegetable bin of the fridge and spend hours of every afternoon looking for things I misplaced that morning! At least that’s what Bill says I do. Another “joke” that’s not too funny.

We’ve all heard that adage “old age ain’t for sissies,” and after several winters when both of us have been plagued with arthritis, we understand where that saying got its truth.

While it is obviously a huge burden to be old these days as a deadly virus stalks our nation and the world, and when quarantine means even more loneliness than many seniors suffer anyway as they age, if you add “infirm” to the equation, you may have a prescription for disaster. Consequently, our little “party on the porch.”

Many older folks will face what some of our sweet friends and now my Bill must face: the rigors of surgery and the hours and days, weeks, even months of radiation, chemo therapy and before Covid-19, the physical therapy in order to get well and to live out the remainder of a happy, healthy, “natural life.” Whatever that may be in today’s new world.

Young and old alike are, of course, subject to health scares, to chronic illnesses, and all ages unfortunately must suffer watching loved ones hurt. It is not the providence of only the old, the aging. But we are taught (again and again) that there is one universal treatment for all disease, pain, fear and loneliness, (but never like we have been schooled by this new year’s tragedies), prayer. Prayer and a relationship with our God who truly loves us. And while He may not answer our prayers the way we want, He always offers comfort and help.

We have received an inordinate amount of help and comfort from friends and family. My daughters, their families, and Bill’s sister have offered the daily support necessary to keep our home running smoothly and to get us here and there to the many, many appointments necessary for treatment. And in these last few weeks we have been shown what Christian friendship is truly all about.

Our refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked thanks to our neighbors the Shriners; our yard mowed, flower beds weeded by Chris, Rebecca and their precious daughters. Meals keep appearing due to Myriam and Alan (Smoked ribs! Oh my), and Rebecca not only brings groceries but complete three course meals. In these times of trouble, confusion, and shortages, there has been no shortage of loving kindness.

And now Lauren McGuire has called to offer her family during “Spring Break!” We may get some bushes trimmed and the car plus Bill’s truck washed. Wonderful.

I do not think I have ever seen the Golden Rule acted out or felt such love as I have felt in this autumn season of our lives. I know Bill would agree. Thank you dear, kind friends and family for caring for us Seniors.

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.