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I went to a writer’s conference over the weekend. The morning after, I usually wake up filled with ideas about what to do with many unfinished writing projects.

Not today. I woke up this morning feeling embarrassed. Why?

It took a second to remember. I’d dropped my phone Saturday. More correctly, I’d let it slide off my lap. I felt it go—of course, I’d forgotten it was under my notebook—and immediately leaned forward to see where it had landed. Spotting my phone halfway under my chair, I scrunched myself in half and reached backward to get it. No luck. Just out of reach. As I stretched my arm back further, a young gal behind me slipped to her knees, effortlessly retrieved the phone, and handed it to me over my right shoulder.

I was embarrassed. Grateful, yes, but embarrassed. Yet another thing that I don’t, or can’t, do as ably as when I was younger.

So why was I embarrassed at my relatively young old age? Because it’s the second time in two months I’ve had this feeling over dropping things. A month ago, at a backyard barbecue after my granddaughter’s wedding, I went through a buffet line, piled grilled chicken and chopped salad on a sturdy paper plate, and seated myself between my new grandson’s mother and aunt, my only chance to get to know them. Within minutes, as I skewered the chicken apart with the side of my sturdy plastic fork, pieces of chicken and salad took flight, accompanied by the pronged half of my sturdy fork, then descended in a colorful arc of white and green, some down the leg of my new grandson’s mother, on their route to the driveway.

Before I could even process the unplanned action, my new grandson’s mom wiped off her leg and both women bent over to scrape up chicken and salad bits with their napkins.

For an interminable minute, I sat there in shock, observing their backs as they arched over the debris I’d caused on the driveway, when this thought came to mind: “This is what it must feel like to be old.”

I had to smile, thinking of how in every previous occasion of this kind, I’d been the one who cleaned up after folks. Was this the beginning of something? The beginning of being the recipient of care, rather than the giver of care? As a nurse in my mind forever, that’s a hard concept for me to accept. Along with this phone incident now, it feels like being a recipient may be the beginning of a trend.

As I’m wallowing in my feelings of embarrassment today, I’m thinking I may have to get used to them…and make them work to my advantage. I’m thinking I could write a humorous essay about my experience and get a blog post out about it. I’m thinking the essay could meet the requirements of “universality” touched on at the writing conference, meaning the “particulars” of my experience may resonate with others.

And I think they will. Just last week I was watching a seated older woman when her foot knocked over the Styrofoam cup of tea she’d placed beside her chair; while she was bending over to wipe up, the walnuts and grapes on her plate trickled down her leg to join the spill. I could see only the top of her head as she kept saying, “I’m so embarrassed. I’m so embarrassed. I didn’t mean to spill.”

That’s perfectly okay, lady. You are not alone.

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