Back in 1971 when Neil Young gave this performance, he was one of my favorite artists — still is — and I was about the same age as he was — 24, or at least so the song suggests. Being old seemed very, very far away.
I remember the first time I walked into my parents house after being away for several months when my first thought was “old people live here.” My parents weren’t home at the time, so what I noticed was the scent: suggestive of medication and bodily functions. I was brought right back to childhood when we visited my grandparents both at home and in the nursing home where they spent their final days: the scent of old people. It still seemed like my becoming old was very, very far away.
A few months ago, when we were removing everything from the family home to make it ready to put on the market, I brought home my great grandmother’s walker. Mom got it from her mother and used it as a stand for blankets at the end of the bed. After Mom died, it went into the basement where it remained until I had my husband take it apart to put into the back of the car for the drive back home. It sits now on our lower floor, holding aghans for us to use to get warm on the love seat while we watch TV.
Now, the first thing someone notices when they enter our house is a different walker, a modern walker, near the stairs. All the throw rugs that used to adorn the living room have been rolled up and put away. All the furniture in the living room has been rearranged to leave the middle of the room empty, to allow my husband to walk, with the walker, as he rehabilitates after having total knee joint surgery. And there is just a faint suggestion of the scent of bodily functions in the air as my husband recovers from the effects of the surgery, the pain killers that were prescribed to help him get through both the surgery and the physical therapy that will continue for at least the next three months.
I didn’t ever think I would get old.