The 88 year-old woman sitting next to me in the coffee lounge this morning leaned over and said, “I have to tell this to someone! I took an after-breakfast nap today and I don’t even feel guilty about it! What do you think of that?”“I think it’s great,” I replied.“What? That I took the nap or that I don’t feel guilty?”

“Umm, both I guess. I think that at, er, your age, please excuse me, it’s okay to nap wherever and whenever you feel like it. About not feeling guilty, that’s fine too. I still feel guilty about all sorts of things and I never give up hoping that one of these days I will grow out of it.”

“How old are you?”

“Just turned 80…”

“Well, now all signs of guilt have disappeared. Have you noticed?”

“I’m not sure, but I have noticed something’s changing,” I said going off in search of coffee – and feeling guilty about abandoning her.

It’s strange that life-long habits persist in a retirement home. The other day I was on the way to the elevator when the door of an apartment opened and a little old lady leaning on a walker came out holding a small package of garbage. I greeted her and continued walking. All week I was in a state of remorse and guilt at not having offered to take her garbage to the chute. I’m younger, stronger and male, I agonized. That’s what common courtesy dictates, isn’t it?

Yesterday the same thing happened. She emerged with the little package at the exact moment I passed her apartment. This time age-old, deep-ingrained good manners prevailed. “I’ll take that for you,” I said, reaching for the package.

“No you won’t!” She yelled, snatching the package close to herself. “It’s my garbage and I’m taking it!”

“Okay, okay,” I stuttered.

I’m never going to get this guilt thing right…

 

 

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