By Joe Rector
Last spring, Amy and I traveled to Cookeville to help sort through her aunt’s possessions. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and resides in an assisted living community. To pay for her stay there, the house had to be sold. Family came to box up her items, and they took home some things that Mildred had wanted them to have. It was a brutally painful task for family members, but something that had to be done.
Amy and I brought home a few things. Among them were two green metal chairs. They were patio chairs made with adirondack bodies set upon white metal legs that curled down and then around to form a solid base. If I were guessing, the set is probably 50 years old.
The mint green paint had faded over the years. The sheen of the color had long since disappeared from time spent in the sun, rain, and snow. Still, the seats retained their beauty, and the structures were solid. In many ways, they mirror the existence of us humans.
We lose some of our luster over the years. The color of our irises fade and sometimes the strain of life shows in them. Skin becomes slack as its elasticity disappears, and we develop those double chins or flabby skin fold on our necks. Spots sometimes dot once-perfect complexions. Even though those things occur, the basic structures of our faces remain the same. Yes, sometimes our ears grow even larger and noses begin to look longer and narrower. All in all, the years make changes to our appearance, but they can never completely erase our basic traits.
The legs of those chairs hadn’t fared as well as the seats. They were skinny, and at the curves and joints, rust had developed. After only a couple of sitting sessions in them, those legs would have given way and either broken or slowly bent double. To use the chairs, new metal needs to be inserted to reinforce or replace existing material.
It’s the same way with us. After years of wear and tear, our legs begin to give out. Folks have always laughed about my skinny legs and commented that I should “sue them for non-support.” We all find that the strength once located in our legs has diminished or disappeared. So many joints are located in our lower extremities, and with age each one of them aches. Some doctors recommend that we have those rusted-shut joints fixed. After excruciating physical therapy, we’re good to go for another hundred thousand miles. The marvels in modern medicine keep us as active as possible.
Those old green chairs have been present for so many events. They’ve held the bottoms of folks during the best and worst of times. When folks came calling, they plopped down in them and covered an endless stream of information, gossip, and even humor. At other times, they offered comfort to those who had gathered to offer support or condolence in times of loss.
Older folks have been around for many events as well. We’ve experienced the joy of family reunions during holiday seasons; we’ve shared food and conversation with folks during summer meals outside. At other times, we’ve consoled or been consoled during the loss of a loved one or in the midst of some other tragedy or problem. Our experiences over the years have molded us into the folks we have become. The difference between us and those old chairs is that we can offer helpful advice and words of wisdom, if anyone cares to ask for them.
Those old green chairs have a new home.. Amy has arranged them with other items that add to the flavor of a country porch. They no longer are available for sitting but offer a pleasant sight that brings back memories from earlier times. We senior citizens don’t do as much as we used to do, but we are ready and willing to be of some use to the world and the younger folks who now run it. We’re both rusty and creaky but still have plenty of life left in us.