For a while, I had the absolute honor to be Lila’s* massage therapist. Lila, a retired musician, might be called “feisty” in some circles. She has Lived, with a capital “L,” and while her current life is not exactly what she hoped for, she still finds some way to grab every day by the ears, sniff in its face and say, “Hi there. I’m Lila. What do you have for me?”
Lila is an alcoholic who stopped drinking 30 years ago. She was a multi-pack-per-day smoker who stopped about 5 years ago. She was getting ready for surgery to correct a prolapsed bladder. While I gently massaged around her sacrum, Lila said to me: “I don’t drink anymore, I can’t smoke, and my bladder is falling into my vagina so I can’t have sex. What vices are left anymore?” I thought for a minute before responding, “I don’t know. Guns, maybe?” Lila laughed her (ex)smoker’s raspy laugh and relaxed into the massage.
I spent hours in continuing ed talking and learning about geriatric massage. We spent a lot of time talking about the person, work with the person, the person comes first, be person-centered. But, in truth, nothing we talked about allowed for a person like Lila. A woman: white of hair, stooped of spine, wrinkled of face, and alive with humor, wit and sensuality. We still have trouble, in our person-centered hearts, giving up the “age-appropriate” trap. More Lilas are needed, stat.
*–Name and identifying details have been changed.