The 88 year-old woman sitting next to me in the coffee lounge this morning leaned over and said, “I have to tell this to someone! I took an after-breakfast nap today and I don’t even feel guilty about it! What do you think of that?”
“I think it’s great,” I replied.
“What? That I took the nap or that I don’t feel guilty?”
“Umm, both I guess. I think that at, er, your age, please excuse me, it’s okay to nap wherever and whenever you feel like it. About not feeling guilty, that’s fine too. I still feel guilty about all sorts of things and I never give up hoping that one of these days I will grow out of it.”
“How old are you?”
“79.8. But today someone told me I am actually 79.10 on the duo-decimal scale.”
“Well, as soon as you turn 80 all signs of guilt will disappear. You’ll see.”
“I look forward to it,” I said going off in search of coffee – and feeling guilty about abandoning her.
It’s strange that life-long habits persist in a retirement home. The other day I was on the way to the elevator when the door of an apartment opened and a little old lady leaning on a walker came out holding a small package of garbage. I greeted her and continued walking. All week I was in a state of remorse and guilt at not having offered to take her garbage to the chute. I’m younger, stronger and male, I agonized. That’s what common courtesy dictates, isn’t it?
Yesterday the same thing happened. She emerged with the little package at the exact moment I passed her apartment. This time age-old, deep-ingrained good manners prevailed. “I’ll take that for you,” I said, reaching for the package.
“No you won’t!” She yelled, snatching the package close to herself. “It’s my garbage and I’m taking it!”
“Okay, okay,” I stuttered.
I’m never going to get this guilt thing right…