"C'mon, mother! Get over here!" she snapped. Her elderly mother had stopped at a little section in the store to read some plaques and magnets. "What are you doing? Great; you're going to miss the line by reading those things. You don't need them," she huffed, continued to block me from the check-out, and grumbled, "Fine. I will stand here and wait. But you are going to hold up the line."
Her elderly mother, stooped, and leaning over her cart, moved haltingly as she turned her cart, her cane hanging on the handle. Just a few skeins of yarn lay in the cart. I understood. I can't walk around the store without a cart to lean on, either. As I stood there observing this scene, it struck me how impatient this younger adult-daughter was. She snapped, huffed, and snarled. She shook her head in exasperated shame. Anyone could tell she had no respect for her mother, just disdain and contempt. Pity.
How often does this happen today in society? I do not know. Does this contempt lead to greater abuse? A jerk? A shove? I do not know. But it is definitely not the first time I have witnessed a scene like this of late. For years I watched my elderly father slowly draw his breath, and take baby steps to walk to the bathroom in his assisted living center bedroom. I watched peas, cream corn, and soup dribble down his chin onto his white tee-shirt. Something inside me always wanted to help, to reach out. But Daddy was proud and did not want that help.
Dignity in the latter years of life is scarce but protectively clutched to an elderly person's soul. What do they have left? Their health is failing. Their eyesight dims, their hearing goes, and their tastebuds lose all sense of taste. They become dependent on their children--the very children they gave at least 18 years of their own lives, if not more, to raise, to feed, to clothe, to clean up after, to chase, to chauffer, to teach, to pray for, to guide. And what do some elderly parents get in return?
Not even the time to peruse a few knick-nacks in a store.
It was all I could do to muzzle my mouth. I was angered. I was aggravated. I wanted to ask the lady if she'd like to go ahead and I would take her mother home. I wanted to intervene. I could not. I said nothing. I thought about myself. I realize I am getting older. Though not so ill I cannot drive myself to a store, I do have difficulty walking around the mega-stores now. It's harder to reach things on the lower and higher shelves. I spend more time deciding between brands. I wonder. How often do I annoy a younger, more able person with my hesitation? How long will it be before I am the one in the way...the one who impedes another from doing what they want to do in a timely fashion?
I wonder, too, should we be addressing this in our churches today? When do we stop honoring our fathers and mothers? Should we be teaching our younger adult members to respect their parents, their grandparents? Other elderly church members? What happens if we do not?
According to Elder Abuse Daily, Data and Statistics on February 15, 2010:
There are nearly 6 million cases of elder abuse every year. That's approximately one case every five seconds. Unfortunately, many of these cases go unreported. According to EADaily.com's projections, California continues to be the state with the greatest number of elder abuse cases in the U.S., with 36% more than that of Florida, a state with second greatest number of elder abuse cases. Alaska has the fewest in the U.S. at approximately 8,900 cases per year. Just five states account for over 1/3 of all elder abuse cases in the U.S. California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania have the most cases annually.
"You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man [or woman], and fear your God: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:32