Thursday, November 1, 2012

Senior Comedy Routine Falls Short of Real Humor

I love  Dorothy's introduction to the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz."


She and the scarecrow begin to lubricate the rusted woodsman with an oilcan.


When he starts leaning to the  right they race to catch him only to discover that he's now tipping to the left.


Just when they've shifted to catch him on the left side he begins falling backward.




Which leads me to  a similar comedy routine I was a part of  the other day in church.


Falling Fred, an elderly gentleman from our parish,  returned to his seat from communion and he began leaning right.


I wanted to yell "Timber!"


Those of us behind extended our arms just as the great oak reversed direction and started going left.


We were like spotters for an Olympic gymnast, bracing ourselves to catch him.


Finally, Fred aimed for his chair and made it.


The crisis passed momentarily until this octogenarian chose to get back up on his feet again.


Let's get a couple of things straight.


Falling  Fred is a prayerful inspiring member of our church.


We  admire  that Fred chooses to venture out of his house instead of staying cooped up  like an invalid.


We like his spunk.


But the truth is that Fred needs someone to escort him because he is so unsure of himself.


His cane  makes him less unsteady.


However, Fred's muscles and joints have become so weak that a slight breeze could take him down.


On the verge of collapsing at any given moment.


Fred venturing out into the world without someone to go with him subjects him to  potential  injury.


Moreover, Fred is not being fair to the rest of us around him.


With his independent jaunts, he is telling shoppers, store clerks, and fellow churchgoers that he is not very considerate.


When Fred goes down, and I assure you that he will go down sometime soon, anyone within 10 feet will be forced by their own sense of compassion to lend a hand by trying  to catch him.


Someone will injure themselves trying to break the fall of Falling Fred.


Freddy, we have great affection for you.


We just don't want to see you get hurt.


And  you are implicitly asking those around you to serve as your at-the-ready emergency technicians because you refuse to get someone to help you.


Years ago Tim Conway won an Emmy playing an old man on the  Carol Burnett show.


He walked very slowly sliding his feet only a few inches at a time along the floor.


 It made for great comedy.


When Falling Fred finally takes a dive, it won't be funny.


I know you have seen a Falling Fred in your travels as well.


Gently tell Falling Fred the truth.


He must recruit  family and  friends  so he doesn't  have to fly solo.


Either tell him or prepare to be pressed into service.


It's not cruel to be honest with him.


He'll suffer more if you drop him.




  1. Wow...I'm amazed you even wrote this! I challenge you to do 3 things and then re-write your "opinion". Go to any fire station and ask them how many times each day they respond to a "Fred" call and ask them if they find it humurous or would refer to the situation as "a comedy routine". Then go to any of the MANY "elder care" services in our area ("Senior Independence", "Visiting Angels",etc.) and ask them about all the "Freds".Ask them if they find Fred's situation humurous. I could bring you onto my street this very morning and introduce you to at least 10 "Freds". They are alone, they have no family because their children are either passed on or moved to Arizona. They cannot afford $20.oo an hour to have someone drive them to church. They don't want to be put in to "Mentor Way" where they will be seat=belted into a wheelchair and parked in the hallway and told not to get up until it's time to get back into bed (for their own safety, of course)Oh, did I mention, you should visit Mentor Way also...or someplace similar. Not the "private pay" places that charge $6000 per must go to a "medicare" resorts.... Most children with elderly parents like "Fred" are unable to quit their jobs to protect you and the rest of the public from being uncomfortable around their parentsand cannot afford to pay someone to be their "surrogate" caregiver. I agree with only one thing you say: It is a REAL problem....but not becaue it cause ME to be in a postion of potential back injury! We need to find answers...not just blow it off as "humurous". I hope you are prepared to handle any "Fred" in your family, most of us can't---we can't just "borrow from our parents" to take care of our parents... as one presidential candidate thinks we can...our parents are BROKE!You have riled me up because I just finished a 3 year jaunt down this horrible road with my own mother...and luckily she had some money and I quit working for 3 years...but I did witness the saddest "elder care" system in the world. Trust me, it's not a comedy routine nor is it humurous. If you have such fond feelings for Fred why not drive him to church? Follow your own his "friend". I know you aren't going to do's not your reponsibility. However...any person who REALLY has to deal with the "Freds" everyday will tell you it IS your responsibility and mine and everyone else's - in a civilized democracy.

  2. I think your family is very lucky for the fact that you have given them advanced directives loud and clear as to your "care" when you are elderly. What a blessing for them to know you just want to go down without a fight. Such a relief.

  3. I have been listening to the area police scanner for exactly 2 hours this morning and have heard 9 calls for rescue of people like "Fred"....what's funny about this? These people are alone and scared. The other day there was an elderly man who fell and did not call 911 for a full 24 hrs...he preferred to lay on his floor for a whole day rather than take the risk of being taken to a hospital and having the hospital social worker tell him he cannot return home. Funny? Do you have parents? Do you think about your future? Usually the only people checking on our elderly are neighbors or the "meals on wheels" people. and let's face it---neighbors is a loose term these days....not like the old days. You are in a position to motivate readers towards change and progress by the mere fact that you have a "column" should use it more wisely than to make light of real issues.