That Old Person In Front of You

My dapper Dad

To the man, who sighed loudly at the old man putting his cards in his wallet. You didn’t see the frustration on his face as he tried to steady his shaking hands and slip the loyalty and debit cards back in their rightful place. His wallet and hands were shaking making the task tricky. Should I have helped him? I got the look from you too.

But I’m not going to take his cards and wallet off him. You see I already do so much for him, stuff that you would take for granted. So I let him do his bit at the weekly shop.

I hope in 5-10 years’ time when you are his age – He is 88 by the way. You don’t hear the sighs behind you.

To the lady who moved Dad’s shopping cart out of the way when he was looking for some pastries. He likes a bun or a biscuit with his cup of tea at supper. He uses that shopping trolley to help with his balance – If you had paused a second you may have noticed his walking stick in the trolley. Maybe this would have prompted a thought, he wasn’t being lazy slouched on the trolley he was actually rightly or wrongly using it as a support. Was it so imperative that you reached the Viennese slices at that exact moment in time?

I really hope in 20 years’ time your mobility is as good as Dad’s because at 88 he only uses a walking stick for getting about and occasionally a wheelchair when his Grandad knee is playing him up.


To the kids that barged past Dad in the shop doorway hustling and bustling. I know he is a frail figure, but that man, my hero would have stopped you in your tracks a few years ago. Is it that important that you reach the energy drinks and fags right now?
Why not pause and nod your head to the old fella let him walk in front of you? I know for a fact he would have done just that 75 years ago. But you were in too much of a rush to get the next sugar rush and puff of your fags.

If you could see the effects of smoking on those I love and hold dear. The effect on that young lad who has smoked for the last 70 years, maybe you wouldn’t be rushing for your fags.

To the daughter that loves her Dad unconditionally, yet finds the situation frustrating sometimes. She snaps when he doesn’t take his tablets in the order they should be. She’s inherited his quick temper and his frustrations too you see.

Let him put his money and cards in his wallet no matter how long it takes, Let him speak to the doctor and tell them how he feels. Not how you think he feels. Let him do his bit in the garden and wash the pots. Let him fill in his shopping list even though it takes so long as the pen is so shaky on the paper.

He is a proud independent man who is still grieving and still learning to live without his wife.

So next time you are frustrated at that elderly person in front of you. Pause, and think about the lifetime of experience they have. The stories they tell even if it is over and over again. Smile and hold the door. Make eye contact and acknowledge them as a person not as a slowcoach, not as a hindrance, not as someone who doesn’t matter.


He was part of a formidable pairing that raised six children.

He has walked his girls down the aisle. He had his hair permed, his brows tweezed and face-masks applied to support the girls in their training.

He has grown vegetables; he has repaired cars and put up many a wonky shelf. He has built walls and bridges, he has supported his family through thick and thin. He loves every member of his family unconditionally.

He has many stories to tell and his blue-grey eyes will show sparks of joy when he reminisces and tells a tale. When he is being Grandad tormentor, or simply when he is being Dad.

So remember that behind that frail old façade, there is a history and a future too, there is a story to tell and a life that is being lived to the best of its abilities. It may be at a slower pace, slower than you would like and most definitely slower than they would like.

The person in front of you with the shaky hand, they may be using a walking stick or frame. They are your parents or grandparents and they laid the paving stones of the paths we now tread.


Elaine Mitchell