A three decade triumph


Saleh Al Shaibany

I met an interesting elderly gentleman while I was coming out from the hospital. He was on the wheel chair and struggling to push it so he could come out of the crowded corridor.

There was a pleading expression on his face as I was passing him that made me stop and offer him my help. He happily accepted it and asked me to wheel him to the waiting lounge. He also asked me to get him water "mixed with fruit juice". That was a challenge but I ended buying him a bottle of water and a can of apple juice. I found plastic cup on the water dispenser that I used to mix up the drinks. He gratefully accepted the cup and as I walking away, he motioned me to sit next to him. He also motioned me to pour him another cup of the stuff. I did and I watched him drink wondering where his family was.

He read my mind and said, "don't worry, I have not been dumped here. My daughter is somewhere around. She will turn up sometime."

Since I had no wish to baby sit an old man, I excused myself to leave. It was then he started telling me about himself. After doing a good deed, I did not want to appear rude to erase the good effort. So I stayed and listened. He had prostrate cancer when he was 62 and the operation was not successful. The young doctor, trying to comfort him said there should be no regret if he passed away since he had already "reached a ripe old age."

The comment scared him and made him feel very old but last night, he told me, with a bright toothy grin, he celebrated his ninety first birthday! He lived 30 years after the second operation. He now realised how "young" he was at the tender age of 62 only because he made it past ninety. A thought passed my mind. I asked him how old was the doctor then? He was in his early thirties and added "I am sure he is now the same age as I was when he diagnosed me."

 I suddenly became suspicious of his motives for being in the same hospital he did his prostrate operation just a day after his ninety first birthday. It did not look like he was waiting for a doctor.
 Yes, he calmly answered, that he was indeed waiting for a doctor. A minute later, a woman in her fifties walked towards us with a grey-haired man in a white coat. She was his daughter followed by the same doctor.

The medical man smiled broadly and understood why he was there. "I guess we are both old men now."  

"No, you are not," the elder man answered quickly, "I have that privilege. You don't have it yet. Wait for another thirty years before you can declare yourself old."
 
 It was quick, short and sweet. The doctor returned to his duties and the old man invited me to his house to celebrate his birthday the "proper way". I politely declined and left him in the good hands of his daughter. As I was driving out of the hospital, I saw him being wheeled to the car. He had a bright smile on his face, brighter than the morning sun. The meeting with the doctor might have embarrassed his daughter but I suspect it was a personal triumph for him. I am sure he would celebrate every day that passes by and he would die happily when his time finally comes. And why not?  


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