Archive: Attention


There is a little old lady in my building that I look after. We met at the pool two years ago. She needed a ride to an acupuncturist for her legs and asked if I could drive. I was still a complete shut-in and really didn’t want to go, but I felt bad for her, because while I chose (more or less) to be stuck at home, she had it forced on her. Over the years my agoraphobia has improved a little from taking her out and about. She loves to talk, about her past, about world events, and sometimes, about her present. Like most elderlies, she has a lot of medical problems, and I help her with them. She complains to me about how lonely she is, how sad she is about her age, her condition, her finances. She calls me up all the time looking for companionship. Typical old lady.

But then I noticed something odd. Despite having other friends, close family relations, and a bunch of doctors, none of them seemed to be helping her.

Then one day she called me up, complaining about the pain in her knee and how badly it hurt. Then she paused, and said something I’ll never forget;

“Oh Anie, I’m sorry I bother you so much with my problems. You are the only one I tell them to.”

“What? But Issa, why?”

“Because you are the only one who asks me about them.”

Issa grew up in Poland as it was overtaken by the Nazis. She became a respected member of the resistance and has since been honoured for her work. She has traveled the world, had a family, and worked on Wall St as a broker for fifty years. She was also raised Catholic. You didn’t draw attention to yourself. You don’t ask for help. You don’t want to be a bother. Suffering is divine. Never look for attention.

Issa can barely walk from a botched surgery. Her knees are a painful mess that she was on the wrong medication for, she’s losing her hearing and she has sores in her mouth that won’t heal from another botched surgery. I’m the only one who knows about most of it. She doesn’t even tell her doctor the extent of her pain because “he’s such a nice man with his own problems and I don’t want to bother him.”

Is this what you people want? Someone who doesn’t look for attention? Because looking for attention sure seems to be a terrible thing to do these days. People like stoics better, those like Issa that won’t burden them with the obligation to look outside themselves and help a fellow in need. People “look for attention” when they can’t handle something on their own. People who don’t look for attention when they can’t handle something just pine away or self destruct. Ah the tragic hero, how we love him, suffering in silence for our sake.

Well not me. I’m no stoic. I’m a whiny, emo crybaby victim looking for attention. I will not go softly into the night. I didn’t do it nine years ago and I’m not starting now. I’m a survivor and if I have friends, they are damn well going to hear about my problems when they overtake me. Anyone else can bail. But know this; anyone who gives me attention will get it back when they need it. That’s the difference between an emo crybaby and a selfish dick. I’d rather be the crybaby any day.

Now excuse me while I go help Issa dye her hair.


  • Charlotte Walbrecht Nice story Anie. People like you are few and far between! It is very kind of you to help her. Maybe you should take up a new career in the field of Social Work or Medicine! That would keep you busy for a while! Then you could help lots of people!! Yes it is tough getting old and not many people care! I worked in the Nursing Home for a while and I can not tell you how many people just sat there day after day and no one came to see them. They just fade away. At least Isa is still able to have her own place which believe it or not probably helps her and keeps her going! Keep up the good work! Have a nice day too!! 🙂
  • Susan Lipson Anie, you’re so sweet.
    It really is better to look for attention than to suffer. I truly believe this.
  • Marysia Kosowski I know firsthand people don’t want to hear about your problems when you really need someone to talk to. It bites.
  • Marysia Kosowski Your story is very touching, by the way. 🙂

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