i want to grow old.
Yesterday, I went for my barrage of routine tests. Drink this, lay here, breathe in – from x-ray to ultrasound to bone density it is a lot like speed-dating. You are handed from nurse to technician -each of them fondling you or fiddling a machine for an allocated number of minutes before palming you off to the next brisk talking staff. At this centre, they even give you a white card to check off as you play.
I, of course, showed up late missed my appointment and as punishment found myself in the abyss of hospitals – the waiting room. Sitting there holding my book but mostly craning my neck to see if my queue number was up, I didn’t notice her till she stood up. An elderly lady in bright red capris, a floral blouse and her hair piled glamorously upon her head in a bun.
It is hard to say why some people intrigue us over others – but I smiled at her and she smiled back. And then my number was called and I threw myself at the receptionist – desperate to get myself into the circus and out as quickly as possible.
But these things are never quick and so between my first and second prodding – waiting in that modesty challenging blue gown – I found myself sitting next to her again. In a huff, she had sank onto the cushion – spitting out: “Mammograms are so awful. I am still shivering from the pain.”
I laughed at this familiar reaction and offered; “It must have been invented by a man.”
She seemed delighted by this and we got to talking.
Now 75, she had been diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer 6 years ago -so she need only endure the humiliation of this conveyor belt twice a year. With her husband sweetly trailing behind and carrying her purse as she moved from machine to machine – she seemed interesting. I wanted to be her friend and be invited to her house for hot-pot and bubur cha cha. I wanted to be her. Old. Instead I settled for a long conversation where she told me she had been a stock-broker most of her life and this diagnosis came out of nowhere and we discovered we shared the same oncologist.
Then, suddenly, abruptly – she sighed; “Life can be so miserable.”
Without hesitation I found myself replying; “At least we’re alive.”
She smiled, nodded. Then a nurse summoned and in the maze of hallways and waiting rooms – I didn’t see her again.
Today, I collected my results. There is a shadow on my liver. Tomorrow, I will know more.
And all I can think is; I want to grow old too.