“Helen, tell that old man in the house that he left his truck running again.” Those words spoken on the phone many years ago by our good friend and neighbor, Wayne Courtney, brought an outburst of laughter. “I’ll tell him,” Mom responded.
As the aging process continued so did my late father’s senior moments, and they often involved his truck. More than once, a patron would enter the restaurant where my gregarious father was socializing with his friends at breakfast and exclaim, “Harry, you left your truck running.”
In addition to growing older, my father had another serious issue: hearing loss. At that time, vehicles didn’t come with a bell to remind the driver that the key was still in the ignition. And if they did, my dad would not have heard it since he couldn’t hear the motor running!
Of course, the episodes of his leaving his truck running outside a restaurant occurred many years ago when crime wasn’t rampant. He, along with many other people, thought nothing of leaving keys inside the car.
A few years before his passing, he had another senior moment which could have ended much worse than it did. It was a pleasant summer day, and we were sitting outside on the breezeway when I remarked I could hear something in the distance that sounded like a motor.
“It’s probably Jerry Bowlby mowing his lawn,” Dad responded. The discussion ended, but the next morning when my father opened his garage door, he made a shocking discovery. He had left his truck running all night and the air conditioner had blown up! Fortunately, that was all the damage, except, of course, he had run out of gasoline.
From that time on he assigned me a new job: keeper of his keys. That episode caused me to shake my head in disbelief, not realizing that I am my father’s daughter and in a few years would be having my own senior moments.
Several weeks ago after walking to my car in the Walmart parking lot, I stood there, aghast at the huge scratch on the trunk. “How did that get there?” I asked myself. (Since I’m getting older and live alone, I talk to myself more frequently. My dad used to do the same thing.)
Hoping it was not a real scratch, I got a tissue and began rubbing furiously. After a few minutes of vigorous rubbing, I could see I was making no progress. I hadn’t been in the store that long. Probably the scratch had been there for a while but I’d not noticed it. I tried to remember all the places I’d been and was becoming angry with the unknown careless, inconsiderate person who had damaged my vehicle.
I took one more look and then spoke to myself the second time.
“You dummy! You don’t drive a Prius!”
Well, the car was red, and I’m not known for my powers of observation.
Of course, I’m not the only person who has forgotten where her car was parked or worse yet tried to get into the wrong car. A friend shared a humorous story about her brother whose senior moment caused him considerable embarrassment. After getting into his car, he looked around and exclaimed, “Where did all of this trash come from?” Humiliated, he realized the lady sitting in the passenger’s seat was not his wife!
Another problem that has come with my golden years is failure to recognize someone who has engaged me in conversation. Sometimes I just pretend I know the person, smile and listen. Silence is golden as we’ve been told, and often in those moments of careful listening I’ve been able to discern clues to the identity of the person talking to me.
A few months ago a man came up to me at Bob Evans, called me by name, and stated that he enjoyed reading my columns. Well, I couldn’t very well ask this member of my fan club who he was, so I thanked him, let him talk, and in a short time the mystery was solved.
“I really liked the story you wrote about my dad driving your parents to Kentucky for their wedding.”
“Ah ha,” I thought. I smiled and replied, “Thanks, Steve.”
(And if Steve Snider happens to read this column, I did recognize you when I saw you recently at the birthday party in Rockbridge.)
There are other times when I am forthright enough to confess my failure to recognize a person. However, this practice does come with some risks. For example, during the calling hours for my father, I greeted the people coming to express their condolences. Since many were my dad’s friends whom I didn’t know personally, I introduced myself, asked who they were, and then thanked them for coming.
When one well-dressed, rather attractive lady came in, I promptly went to her and said, “I’m Karen, Harry’s daughter. Thanks for coming.” Then I made a bold statement. “Excuse me, but would you mind telling me who you are.”
She looked at me with disappointment and answered somewhat gruffly, “I’m your cousin, Linda!” Needless to say, I was embarrassed, but in my defense, I hadn’t seen Linda since the last family funeral.
For all of my senior readers, I close with an appropriate prayer—the prayer of senility:
“God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”
Karen Kornmiller writes a bi-weekly column published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.