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Inside the Sandwich: A Glimpse Inside Aging by Amelia Blades Steward

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A few weeks ago, I underwent cataract surgery – not something common for 57-year olds. The success of the surgery, however, far outweighed the injury to my pride in having a surgery more common in 80-year olds. I can now see and that’s amazing!

This experience really gave me insight into the aging process and some of the assumptions we all make about people based on their age, their disabilities, their experiences, and even the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Finding myself in the operating room among the 11 other patients having cataract surgery that day, I found some people approached me, as they do most elderly people, with a raised voice. I didn’t realize that cataracts affected my hearing too! Although my vision was less than 20/20, my hearing hadn’t deteriorated. My husband chuckled as people spoke to me with raised voices as they did to most of the other patients in the surgical bay.

As I reflected after the surgery on my experience, I began to think that when we meet people in life, maybe we need to make fewer assumptions about each another overall. We could actually ask questions like “Can you hear me well enough?” “Can you see what I am giving you?” “Do you need help getting up or down?” “Do you understand what I am telling you?” Simple questions such as these could help us all better navigate the unexpected places in which we find ourselves interacting with people who we do not know.

My mother always says to me that mentally she feels 18, even though her body is changing every day. I got a glimpse into this as I faced some of my own limitations this week. I look in the mirror and don’t see the 18-year old any more.

There are more wrinkles, more aging spots, and darker circles than were there when I was 18 years old. I am bewildered – how did I get here? Where did the years go?

I still have the surgery in the other eye to look forward to. The humor of all this was when my twenty-somethings got wind of the cataract surgery, they couldn’t wait for the picture of me with the large dark sunglasses they give cataract patients, so they could get a chuckle. The glasses reminded me of the Atom Ant cartoon I watched in the 1960s. Honestly, couldn’t we get more fashionable glasses so our kids don’t put our photos on Facebook for the whole world to see? I certainly hope by my next surgery they will have figured that one out!

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