I watch over my mother these days. She’s in a nursing home so I don’t to the heavy lifting, but I visit daily and push her to a small pond where we can watch fish and birds. I see now how the elderly are largely invisible. We avert our eyes from their difficulties, from the spills on their jackets, and the shaking of their hands. And when we do notice them, we are impatient. How slow they are. How unintelligible their speech.
Here is a poem called The Moon, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Somewhere in his youth he knew an elderly grandmother, or maybe a dotty great aunt.
And, like a dying lady lean and pale,
Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,
Out of her chamber, led by the insane
And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
The moon arose up in the murky east
A white and shapeless mass.
Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
I like the imagery, of course, but what moves me is the weariness, the companionless-ness, and the joyless eye. Aging is not for the weak.