I know they are watching me. Call it paranoia if you wish, but I know they are watching. How do I know? Because I have been watching them.

It is quite likely that I am the oldest person among the 30-40 who attend morning mass at St. Joseph’s. There are several in their 80’s but I think I’m the oldest. A few years ago Bertha was the oldest but Bertha died at 88. Up until the end, she was a force to be reckoned with. I learned a lot from Bertha.

We watch each other because we know that sooner or later one of us is going to start failing. Anyone who reaches 86 has had some experience with loved ones failing and then dying. Mom and Dad, for starters. And, more recently, friends have left me behind. I watched as they underwent surgeries, falls, cancer, strokes. And died.

In the past week I’ve run into two women I hadn’t seen in perhaps 15-20 years. They came up to me and addressed me by name. I had no idea who they were. They said I hadn’t changed. (I know better–I have a mirror.) Once these women identified themselves, I could see they were right – they really were who they said they were. One had lost an amazing amount of weight; the other, always slim, seemed gaunt.

A week ago I went to a celebration of a friend’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. They are still a handsome couple, even in their 70’s. My profound observation as a result of my watching: Old people almost always walk funny. Most are round-shouldered, and seem cautious. They turn carefully and walk slowly. They tend to hold onto things. I know I am and do all of these things. In fact I have had to tell folks when I go places with them that they will have to slow down so I can keep up. Truly, it has come to this. I am reminded of a book by Eugene Geissler, The Best is Yet To Be: Life’s Meaning in the Aging Years, in which he describes the first time he went on an outing with his family and found he was not able to keep up the pace. Sooner or later, if we hang around long enough, we get to that place. Just a few nights ago I arrived early at a Seminar and tried to help arranging the chairs around the tables. I was worn out and short of breath in no time. Distressing.

I can think of only once exception. A lovely lady, just about my age, who stands straight and tall, and walks briskly. No flat shoes for her! She is always nicely coiffed and beautifully clothed. I am in awe and I ponder – is this the result of genes or lifestyle? I know it’s too late for me, but I’d like still to know.

One watcher says to me after mass, “How are ya, hon? You’re getting too skinny.” Which is exactly what I was thinking as I watched a man sitting up front. We are getting skinny together.

There’s a distinguished gentleman in a business suit whose story I’d like to know.  He often lights a votive candle before mass so I know he has a heart’s desire.   I add my prayer to his.

Not only do I watch the others, and they watch me, but I watch myself. Watching is something we old folks do well. Watch out.  We’re watching.

Or musing about watching.


For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. — 2 Chronicles 16.9