It’s always One Thing or Another … a lighthearted look at aging, life, and the absurdities of it all.
By Mark McNease
Some days just feel longer than others. They seem to deliberately stretch out an extra few hours so we’ll have more time to dwell on all our dissatisfactions, insecurities and complaints. And it doesn’t help to think that each day is irreplaceable, that the box of days I’d been given when I first screamed my way into the world in some delivery room in Mississippi is now about three-quarters empty. Why would the urgency of lives spent in a flicker reach my consciousness when I was busy ruminating on all the things that bothered me?
Let’s see: there was another day spent in an office job I don’t jump from bed eager to arrive at. There are the minor aches, pains and intrusions of age’s side effects that seem to escalate by the month. There was that not-quite-bad review of my new novel from someone who said he really liked all the others and wasn’t it a shame. There was life in the city itself, polluted with noise and fetid smells and those godawful pedestrians everywhere, perhaps the most entitled class of people on the planet. It was all just … too … much.
And then I saw them: A 40-something Asian woman, thin, silent, pushing a wheelchair across the street and waiting to see if I would stand aside, just a little, so she could get the chair up the sloped curbside. I did, and during those few moments I stood aside, I saw her smile at me, the faintest of smiles. In those barely upturned lips, as she pushed a man who looked about her age along the sidewalk in a wheelchair, I realized the universe, while vast in its marvels, is also unimaginably deep in its sorrow.
I have no way of knowing what their lives are really like, this youngish Asian woman and the man she pushed along who appeared to have some muscle disease. Was she his daughter, looking aged from the chore of caring for him? Was she his wife, blindsided some years into marriage by the cruelties we deny can befall us at any time, for no reason? Was she his sister, bound by family or simply devoted to him? And what does he make of anything, living his life as he goes from sitting to lying to sitting again?
I could tell immediately he was not able to walk or even to move much, encased in a body that simply doesn’t work. Was he cursing a job he didn’t want to go to? Was he arguing with a stranger who’d said something dismissive about his book? Was he scoring points in imaginary debates with people who’d angered or simply annoyed him? And what of his body? My knees ache, my arms feel heavier than they used to. And his arms? He can’t even lift them.
The moment passed. The quiet Asian woman and the silent Asian man in the wheelchair headed up the sidewalk. I found myself momentarily stunned by the sheer pointlessness of the chatter in my head, and I stopped telling myself, stopped listing item by item, all the things wrong with my day. From the wheelchair’s perspective, it all seemed small and meaningless. They moved on, living their lives with challenges I can’t comprehend, and I moved on, a little more aware that the hands I’ve been dealt in life aren’t so bad after all.
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated,” serving the over-50 LGBTQ audience. He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), host of the Live Mic with Mark podcast, and the co-creator and original writer for the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.