This was his 3rd visit to see the Doctor for Elderly Care. He was still quite healthy and strong, but she was none the less worried as she gripped his hand. The short walk from the parking lot was harder to do than the last visit 5 years ago. The decline was obvious to her, but he was still strong she insisted. He was. however, 75 years old just last week and men of his age are are not given the same consideration as younger men.
She thought about the first time she met Robert. He was working as a mechanic for a large airlines. He could outwork most of the other men. He always had a lot of endurance. Genetics perhaps? But he was strong, not in a tough way - just strong! He had stong character as well. Strong willed!
When he saw a job that needed to be done, he was always the first to volunteer. He took a lot of pride in stepping up to take on a tough job when others would shrink back - hoping to become invisible.
Not Robert. She was proud of him because she knew his strength made her stronger.
She let him push open the heavy glass door because she didn’t want any of those monitoring the cameras think he was too weak to push open the door. She was told they watch for things like that. But what if he actually did have trouble, that would not be a good thing either.
She had been worrying about that for weeks, ever since he was notified of his evaluation date.
He told her not to worry!
She was evaluated when she turned 65. That is when evaluations first begin, however she heard they are considering lowering the age to 60 and change the evaluation process. Most people pass the first evaluation, unless there is something obviously wrong. Her sister had developed some health problems when she was in her late 50’s. Someone from the neighborhood watch committee reported her condition to the Department for Elderly Care, but she was able to talk her way out of a negative decision from the clinic. She always had a good and bubbling personality and the doctor simply adjusted the reports in her favor. Such reports from citizens are not usually taken too seriously anyway. But seven years later when her first real evaluation came we all knew she would not pass.
They visited late into the night before her appointment. She says she can still feel that last long hug as she went to the clinic.
Robert pushed open the glass door with ease. She was so proud of him. The waiting room had 15 others sitting around on chairs waiting with patience for their name to be called.
Most looked like they were still in good shape. Robert appeared to be the oldest, but perhaps the healthiest. One women in the corner was in tears, her husband had his arm around her trying to offer as much comfort as possible. His evaluation was negative. His health had gotten so bad over the last couple of years that the expense for medical care would be impractical.
Counseling convinced him (as it does for most) that it’s more practical to depart with "dignity." Fortunately he qualified for a 30 day extention so as to get things in order before returning to the clinic.
Seeing friends and family facing termination is hard to do, but they had grown to accept it. She had seen her parents and Roberts parents as well as many friends go though these evaluations. Most pass the first one, but the second one at 70 and the third at 75 sees a great increase of negative reports. Very few pass the 4th evaluation. She, as well as most others have learned to accept it. Everyone understood that it was their patriotic duty.
Besides what choice do they have. She and Robert did have a good life together the past 50 years. Trips to the lake, picnics, vacations and just quiet time on the porch watching the squirrels darting across the grass and up the trees.
They missed not having children. When she was 35 she was able to get a permit from the Department for Healthy Families, but in her 3rd month of pregnancy she was ordered to undergo an abortion because of "complications." She never found out what the complications were, but friends thought the bureaucracy may have decided that she was to old to start a family.
She waited with the others alone with her thoughts asking for strength if the doctor’s report was negative.
In leaving the clinic, she wasn’t concerned about pushing open the glass door. Robert’s years of working hard had secured him a good evaluation.
As they walked back to the transportation bus she felt so relieved and excited - she wanted to skip down the sidewalk. Robert would not have to have another evaluation for 5 years. However, she would have to be evaluated in three, but she felt strong and wasn't concerned.
As they approached the bus, her ankle twisted and she fell to the ground with a broken hip.
Because they had no children and being a woman an extention was denied.
Robert can still feel her kind, gentle and fragile hand as he leaned over to gently kissed her on the cheek.