I saw Dudley at the gas station this morning and he made a comment that stuck with me. He said: “You look different, today. What’s up?” Well, what was “up” was that hadn’t had time for my morning wash-and-fold cleaning. I just rushed out the door with a hat (I hate hats and “never” wear them) on my head to cover the “bed head”. But what struck me about what Dud said was that we tend to think of people as being and looking as we last saw them.
Two days ago, for example, my wife motioned to me in the grocery store to come over and see the person she was talking to: It was a very old man with what appeared to be his daughter, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who he might be. It turned out he was her former doctor, a man I saw quite often at my place of work and at his office over a period of at least 30 years. But he had aged severely since I’d seen him last (probably 10 years), and he’d gone from a very young looking 60-something to a very old and withered 70-something… and he hadn’t checked in with me so that I could keep up with the changes.
I know I’m stating the obvious, here, but a look at this morning’s obits brought all of this home to me. For about 2 1/2 years I delivered prescriptions for a local chain pharmacy store, and not 1 but 2 of my former customers were listed there. Now, common sense says that people using the delivery services of a pharmacy, especially those who are older and taking large numbers of prescriptions (as these two were when I knew them), can probably be expected to fall off their respective perches sooner or later.
I guess what’s jolted me about this is that until this morning they were (in my mind) just two nicer elderly people who had their problems but were active and even spry in their own ways. Now they’re dead, and I didn’t expect to see their names in the obituaries yet. Just as I’d never have connected that rather shriveled old man with a guy I’d considered a contemporary. And before you ask: NO. I do not recognize that fat, wrinkled (though kind of handsome) old fart who lives in my bathroom mirror and watches me comb my hair, wash, etc… He must be lonely or nosy or something.
I know none of this is news to anyone, nor is it an epiphany of any sort for me. It’s just that understanding all this doesn’t prevent it from startling you when you see a name in the paper or see an old friend after years or look in a mirror. The fact that what we see isn’t what we wanted to see is, I suppose, just the nature of the universe. The trick is to be willing to see it anyway.