As the thump, thump, thump of the ball hitting the floor echoes around the crowed room, I wonder why my hands are starting to get clammy. I wonder why my heart is racing and my mouth is starting to get dry.
The awful realization that the start up of some sort of dodge ball is happening and not only am I part of it BUT I have subject my own mother to take part in this ‘game’ hits me like a bolt of thunder and I am transported back in time.
Way back in time . . .
I am in the middle of the Russell Springs gymnasium with a dry mouth, racing heart and clammy hands. I am in the middle of an elementary school dodge ball game. The reason for my discomfort is the person facing me with the ball happens to be four years older than I am. He is making the ball go thump, thump, thump before he will fling it towards me. What makes me more uncomfortable is this older kid is related to me and I am well aware that he does not obey rules. I know that the teacher’s stern warnings of “no balls above the chest” will not be headed. The ball will be thrown full force straight at my glasses, nose and eyes.
As I stand in the local community center where the older population gathers for daily exercise and activities I turn my anxiety towards the people playing a form of dodge ball today. Their mobility is often lacking so the object is not to actually dodge the ball but to hit or catch the beach ball as it comes in your direction.
I know beach ball is a good activity for them because it keeps them engaged, their eyes track the ball’s movement, they use their arms and they have to think! All of this is great for all the people in this group of ladies who are all over the age of 80.
Where are the men?
I know why there are no men in the group. The number of ladies outliving men in the USA is high. At age 85 and older, there were more than twice as many women as men. But the lack of men still does not take the edge off my apprehension of this game.
Thump, thump, thump and then it happens. Target #1 gets hit in the upper chest and she can’t do anything except say “oops”. Target #2 was more successful. The game continues. When the ball came to my Mom she easily hit it away from her chair as if it was an unwanted fly in Northwest Kansas. My anxiety started to easy away.
After several times of ball to human interaction, my Mom was not so lucky. The recreational director even called out her name before she threw the beach ball but wham, the ball hit my Mom directly on the face. With her glasses askew, the ball bounced off her face, hit her chest, then rolled down to the floor. With one gallant last try my Mom flung out her foot and made contact with the big beach ball. The ball sailed across the community center out of the circle of chairs and wheelchairs.
I must say some of my immature behavior reared it’s ugly head as I secretly cheered seeing the activity director make a mad dash across the room to grab the wayward ball. She did not want to upset the people who had chosen the quiet, least threatening morning activity of TV watching.
Expats can support the elders
If you are an expat don’t forget the older people in the community that might also appreciate some contact time with the new people in their community. For many older adults the transition into a care facility is very hard on them and often talking to someone for a few minutes might be the highlight of their day.
For Ashley* you can never really escape this game, no matter how old you get!