Survival instincts are something we all have. Some of us due to experience at a young age have more profound skills then others. We know the little things to do to get through a tough time enduring until somehow it improves. We witness the homeless on the streets creating a home of sorts out of boxes or whatever can be found. They search for food in all the places one can think, some odd, some obvious. Sometimes settling for anything at all just to quiet the rumblings in the belly.
It isn’t something we expect to see among the elderly, or at least I did not expect to see it. Yet yesterday, Thanksgiving in the States, I visited my former neighbor at the nursing home where he is currently confined. I sat beside him at the turkey ham and dressing dinner the facility served. Mostly cold. Mostly canned food. Mostly with little nutrition which is so important. They push around their food. Some now accustomed to the blandness others newer to the facility knowing there is better more appetizing food just beyond the door, down the street. If only they had been invited to join the family or friends. If only.
When one covers their dish and leaves the table to go back to the small drab rooms, another may take a bit of their food. Wrapping it in the only napkin provided on their tray and already used. Yesterday I witnessed this. A man sitting at the table with my neighbor took the turkey and ham off a lady’s plate who left. It was as if he was in survival mode and that food was of shortage. He explained he was a diabetic and needed to eat frequently yet sometimes that did not happen. So he was attempting to take care of himself by taking what was left on her plate.
The action sends a wave of sadness because it is with heavy heart the bystander, like me watches as this older man’s survival instincts are having to be used even though he is not really homeless. He has a place to live for which he is probably paying greatly. I have never seen anyone visit him in the time I have been going to see my neighbor. I haven’t seen anyone join him for his lunch or dinner. He is alone it appears. Parked there as if on the corner of the street trying to make it on whatever he can find.
Do we ever think about what goes on in these places. How our deep seated instincts of all types kick in. How even if we are older, we never quite loose the ability and desire to survive. I suppose that is the animal related side of us. We can if we have to, do most anything. And we can, if we have to make dinner out of whatever we can find. We can satisfy the hunger with meager means and we can get by when there is no one to reach their hand back to offer a help or pass us food.
It is heartbreaking, however, to see that one in their older years is still having to use the survival skills. Older years should be those of enjoyment, of family, friends around. Or so we think and assume. Yet for some of us that does happen as is the case I guess with this fellow sitting at the table with my neighbor, his survival instincts still intact. He isn’t bothered by it. He laughs and has his wits about him. He simply knows what he needs and is taking care of himself as he probably always has.
Even though it is unsettling and has that tone of heartbreaking sadness, it is good to know that regardless of what happens we all can truly reach into our instincts and survive. We can have the confidence to get through the bumps regardless of age. It is I suppose the string of survival that holds us together and for that gift we can be grateful.