I saw her from afar and immediately recognized her; ‘That’s Mrs. Jolaosho,’ (not her real name) I told my mother.
We were at the Eye Foundation at GRA, Ikeja, for my mum’s routine checkup.
‘Who is she?’ Mother wanted to know.
‘You don’t recognize her? That was our headmistress at our Lady of Lourdes Primary school, Surulere.’
My mother peered from behind her dark shades and shook her head.
I understood the shaking of head to mean she didn’t recognize the woman; at over 70 years, mother hardly recognizes people these days.
I also doubt that Mrs. Jolaosho would recognize my mother, were she to introduce herself.
You see, both have aged; Jolaosho should be in her late 70s to early 80s.
Mother’s dark shades are not for fashion; they are hiding a multitude of defects; they are hiding more than seven failed surgeries to correct an eye problem; they are hiding an eye growing dim from age and glaucoma, they are hiding retina damage… they are hiding many things, so mother wears dark shades.
We figured, if she’s going to have to wear shades, let’s make it one hell of a pair!
Now, back to Mrs. Jolaosho; she was a real beauty back in the days.
Tall like a reed, slim, flat stomach, massive hips and one hell of a bum that got even teachers talking.
She always had her blouse tucked into her skirt and stood ramrod straight.
I guess they don’t make them like that anymore.
But that morning, my former headmistress was being assisted to walk the long corridor to the doctor’s office by someone I guess would be her daughter because she looked just like Mrs. Jolaosho looked like way back.
The polished look of youth and creamy coffee complexion she exuded was long gone and replaced with grey and sagging dark bags under each eye; the butt and hips now look like weights dragging her behind.
They were fallen and seemed to be resting on her knees.
She shuffled a little on the left.
That must have been an aftermath of a stroke; and that ramrod straight back slouched one way as she leaned on her daughter for support.
I remember how she used to walk the long corridors with her cane in hand to strike at any errant pupil.
She was loving and strict all at once.
Nothing about her now reflects who she was before
This is what we all become when we are lucky to age; the quality of the life of a senior is dependent on the size of the pocket of their children and the size of their hearts.
I turned from looking at her to my own mother, to the other patients in the room, all elderly and being assisted by their children.
This is what life is.
Some appeared quite content, others were highly irritated, not necessarily with their caregivers or children but simply because they couldn’t help their situations.
One elderly man who we often meet on our clinic days is always angry and refuses help from his caregiver, I guess a nurse employed by his children.
He never responds to greetings and always swears never to come for the next clinic appointment, claiming he is a busy man.
At 80 plus, one wonders what he is busy doing?
But I guess he hates the kick life has given him; a man who sees clearly suddenly can’t see again, even after several surgeries.
One just woke up to a stroke; one simply lost her sight overnight; one can’t hear unless you scream in their ears; and for another, it’s dementia; they suddenly can’t remember who they are anymore.
Many others are perpetually on one form of medication or another for life and yet, we pray, we want to live long… and why not?
We age, we lose the ability to do so many things.
Mother, for instance turns slowly, like she is in a slow-mo scene in a movie.
She makes fun of herself, saying if she did it any faster than slow-mo, she could get giddy and fall.
Watching these ones, every time we do clinic, reminds me of how fragile the life we live is.
One moment you are in charge, the next, if you are truly blessed, you are dependent on people…for life.