I saw an elderly lady fall today.
I was walking back from my morning cafe, strolling with purpose and a hot mocha in my left hand. Bright colour caught my eye and I caught a glimpse of two elderly women holding onto a pole on the sidewalk. Garbed in fluorescent rain jackets, something seemed off. The pole was leaning, one of the women’s balance was unusual. I kept my eye on her. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. She started to teeter, heads turned. As she fell I gazed at the other reactions. Of the five or six people in close proximity, two had already burst into action. Fight or flight popped into my head and I shamefully admit I took the half second to put down my coffee before bolting over. I’m not instinctive, I don’t just leap into my action. I never had. Perhaps it was heightened sensation, but as she fell it seemed like she went down gradually, sliding as opposed to slamming to the ground. By the time any of us made it there she was already on the pavement. A few of us got arms around her, slowly brought her back to her feet. Was there procedure for this kind of thing? Were we meant to check on her feet? See if anything was bruised or broken?
Questions were flung. “Are you ok?” “Does it hurt?” “What happened?” A quick succession that seemed overwhelming. Her response was surprisingly cavalier. “I’m fine” she said “if I could get a taxi or something I’m sure I’ll be ok.” The same questions were repeated, it was almost as if all the bystanders were in shock. “Is there anyone you want us to call?” “No, I’ll be ok” she replied. Her friend chimed in “you seemed like you were steady there.” She pleasantly replied “well I was. But then I wasn’t.” I didn’t really know what to do. She said she was ok, was that enough? By this point she was standing rather sturdily and I had my hand around her back just in case. I talked. “You seem like you’re ok and I don’t know what to do, but I trust that if there’s anything you need you’ll tell us. We want to help.” She turned and smiled “I should be fine once I get seated in a cab.” She turned to her friend “do you mind riding with me just in case?” Her friend nodded. One of the other bystanders hailed down a cab and we made sure she got in alright. The interaction couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two. My coffee was still hot (and right where I left it). I shook my head and wandered off to work.
It was a weird and unexpected experience. I was more than slightly shaken heading to the office. On one hand, I was chuffed to experience such a positive attitude from someone undergoing what could either be seen as embarrassing or dangerous. She gave no fucks and pleasantly went about her day. It was inspiring to say the least. On the other, it made me reflect on the impermanence of the body. I might be limber now, but everything physical about me is degenerating slowly as we speak. I’m being pulled towards the drain with each passing year. Even now I’m not as quick as I was a few years ago. My agility (both physical and mental) has been stymied by time. How long until a fall isn’t something I can dust off easily? I’m no bouncing baby boy, my elasticity is waning. Is it all just downhill from here? Or can I throw up enough walls through constant work to hold it off for some time yet? Maybe not prevent, but impede, delay. When it happens though, how am I gonna face it? Do I have it in me to just go on with life, accept that things change as I age and that’s ok? That I have abundant time to enjoy this for a while? To appreciate what I do have while it’s there? I’d like to march on with my head held high like she does, to at the very least have humour on my side.
Still, a fall eh? She picked the right season.
I’m a bad person.