Mrs. Crabtree

“As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age: first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.” ~Cicero~

Since diagnosed with a chronic neurological disorder, Stiff Person Syndrome, I walk with a shuffled gait, am sometimes slow, or completely immobile. Watching the effortless movements of others, I feel envy.

I watch the slow, deliberate shuffle of the elderly and I feel a kinship. As physical limitations are difficult for me to accept, I think about the parallels of getting old and disability. Does one grieve their physical losses with age? My opening quotation could easily define disability from chronic illness.

At the nursing home today, I saw Mrs. Crabtree. Smiling a broad genuine smile from her wheelchair, she asked me if I had seen her latest painting on the easel. I promised her I would look at it when we left.

Listening to the gospel music with the residents, Mrs Crabtree decided to join us. Fascinated, I studied her through the program. Wearing a loud print floral dress, the hem skimmed her feet, encased in very large athletic shoes. The thin material molded her ample frame, revealing a missing left breast.

Focused on her project, she meticulously crocheted tight, neat squares of lavender and green, her contribution to a group-effort baby blanket. Putting the squares away, capable hands of a few seconds earlier shook with the effort of gathering up her supplies. Busy, always busy, and interested in something. Painting, magic marker art, crocheting, puzzles and always upbeat and happy from her wheelchair vantage and nursing home confinement…not to mention her physical ails.

Mrs. Crabtree still accomplishes, selling her paintings, enthusiastically pursing interests and activities. She still finds immeasurable enjoyment in life, in spite of her physical limitations and living on life’s death row.

Unknowingly, she is an inspiration on how I can live with disability and chronic illness. I got to hug Mrs. Crabtree, checking out her latest painting as we left.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” ~Henry David Thoreau~

Copyright © 2009

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