Feeling Your Age?

Someone, a very small someone, asked me recently how it feels to be so old. How I felt after that remark was speechless!  How does it feel? Maybe the question should be a two-parter, how does it feel inside? And how about the outside?

Inside is easy. Sixteen.  Call it wishful thinking, or second childhood, or whatever you want. I’ll always feel like I’m still sixteen inside, and that’s a good feeling.

Outside is totally different.  Being old on the outside can vary in feeling from to week to week, day to day, and even hour to hour.  There are days when I think I can still slay dragons. I don’t exactly bounce out of bed but I do give it some serious thought.  Then there are days when every hair on my head hurts, my toenails too. Maybe a brief top-to-toe inventory is called for here.

I’ll admit, I do look old. There’s no fooling anybody.  Layers of paint, youthful attire and hair extensions don’t camoflauge a thing.  Makeup sinks into one’s wrinkles and runs down the chin in streaks. Faded jeans with ragged knees only make people cry, “Oh, you poor dear, did you fall down again?”  As for the hair, mine has been white for so many decades, a green or magenta extension would only bring Halloween to mind.

I still seem to have plenty of curves but how did they end up getting  rearranged into lumps in so many of the wrong places? A double chin might be excusable, but 2 or 3 more on top of the original  don’t help a bit.

And wrinkles!  A few could be expected and accepted, but wrinkles on top of wrinkles?  No way. I have vertical wrinkles, horizontal wrinkles, and wrinkles that crisscross all the rest.  My ear lobes are wrinkled. Even my toes are wrinkled. Not the wet, puckery kind you get after staying in the pool too long either.  These are serious wrinkles, not bad enough to snag my sox, but I do need a larger shoe size just to accommodate them.

If only I could pull up all this sagging skin  and tie it in a knot at the top of my head, I might gain back some of the height I’ve lost,  not to mention getting an instant face-lift. Maybe I should try a handstand. The last time I ended up standing on my head (totally unplanned) I came out of the E.R. with 12 clamps on the crown of my head and bright red hair.  Anyway, physical appearance is transient. As they say, vanity is the last thing to go.

Appearance aside, how do I really feel?  How about my joints, my organs, my posture?  Joints, old and creaky, organs, old and leaky, posture, old and freaky. Some things just don’t bear talking about.

So how did I answer the small someone who was so curious?  I managed a big grin, crossed my fingers behind my back, and fibbed.  “It feels great, child. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll be this old and you’ll find your heart is still young. And that doesn’t feel bad at all.”

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How Time Flies

Don’t  you just hate the way time flies? You finally get all the Easter grass vacuumed out of the corners of your ancient Berber carpet and it’s time to dig out the Christmas glitter. Weren’t we supposed to have a summer and an autumn in between there somewhere? How did we miss Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving?

This sort of thing happens to me too often lately. I think it’s Tuesday and it’s already Friday.  I just got used to October and here it is almost December. If it weren’t for my bank statement and my Visa bill rolling in once a month I’d totally lose track.

I finally decide to blow some money on a pair of cute summer sandals I’d been wanting and now everyone else is buying UGGS. Is it just me living in the past, or do we all have this problem?

When we were children the hours dragged, days were never-ending and a week was an eternity.  All I wanted was to be older. Life finally began to very slowly pick up a little speed about the time I started school. By then I really wanted  to be grown up but it seemed as though it was taking forever. I’d be stuck in school for the rest of my life. When would I start living?

The months and the years crept by and I finally made it into high school. Life began to move a little faster, but still not fast enough. By now, time was playing tricks on me, sometimes flying, sometimes dragging. That was partly my own fault. In high school I picked up a bad habit, I began to lazily put off my six week homework assignments from each class. There was lots of time ahead to do those, Why rush?

The days passed,  then a week, 2 weeks, still plenty of time. Suddenly all 6 weeks had sped past  and I was left the night before those assignments were due, cramming until the wee hours of the morning in an effort to get the work done.  Trying to convince my parents that a bunch of mean teachers had dumped the lessons on me that very day never worked either. With the parents I had I never got by with much. They were on to me by then.

Time passed, as it always does, sometimes creeping, sometimes flying, and the decades disappeared. What I used to do in an hour now takes all morning. Maybe this is what  “time warp” means?

How can these big, busy adults with the beginnings of wrinkles possibly be the babies I cuddled so recently?  I couldn’t wait to get them weaned, then out of diapers, then up and walking and finally into school. Now they’re in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Wasn’t I just in my 60s and 70s? Tain’t fair, why can’t we get a second chance? Would things be any different if we did?

I keep thinking of that old saying, “When you get over the hill you pick up speed.”  All too true. And then there’s the one that goes “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  Somehow that one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. A lot of my time that has passed wasn’t fun at all.

I’d like to grab old Father Time by his scraggly, coffee stained beard and shout  “SLOW DOWN” right in his hairy ear just as loud as I can. Somehow I think he’d just shake me off and keep shuffling right along.

What Would You Do?

If you knew you had just one week left to live, what would you do? How would you spend that week? Cry for seven days straight? Keep it to yourself or tell everybody? Maybe squeeze as much life into those days as possible?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and the many possibilities boggle my mind. I think I’ve decided what I’d definitely NOT do. I wouldn’t waste one minute sitting around taking my pulse, watching the clock or moaning “Why me?”

My first instinct might be to jump off a cliff just to get it over with before the suspense killed me. I never was good at waiting for things to happen. The problem there would be realizing halfway down that a mistake might have been made.  They could have gotten my records or my name mixed up with someone else’s. Then what? Change my mind? I’m NOT jumping off any cliff. Cross that possibility out. It won’t happen!

A lot would depend on circumstances, too. Had I suffered a long, debilitating illness, been  ditched by my one true love, or was I on my way to serving a prison sentence for life with no chance of parole? If so, maybe I’d actually be ready to go in a week’s time.

I kind of doubt that;  I’m more the live-it-up type. I might round up all my far-flung nears and dears, the ones who were still speaking to me or to each other, we’d have one humongous week long reunion eating, drinking, hugging and yakking and we’d never count the hours.

Or I might rob a couple of banks and fly off to Tahiti, spending my  last week in Paradise, living on the freshest seafood and lots of red papayas with lime. What could they do if they caught me? By then I’d be long gone anyway.

I could look up my old boyfriends, just to see if I’d wasted my life, but I already know the answer to that one. My life couldn’t have been better. Besides there weren’t that many boyfriends and it definitely wouldn’t take a whole week to find them.

I might set off on a whirlwind trip around the world, cramming as many of the great museums, cathedrals and heritage sites into my trip as possible. The Louvre, the Prado, the Hermitage,  Notre Dame, Xian, China, the great Golden Buddha, thrill after thrill. All tempting to dream about until I recall an incident that occurred a few years back as I stood gazing in awe at the majesty of Chichen-Itza, the marvelous Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan.

A young man with a backpack and a camera ran up, shoved the camera at me, asked breathlessly if I’d take a picture of him, dashed off,  climbed the lowest steps of the pyramid, and glanced up toward the top. I snapped the picture, he dashed back down, grabbed his camera, muttered a hasty “Thanks”  and ran off at full speed, leaving me standing there with my mouth hanging open. That is definitely not the way I would want to view any of the world’s wonders.

I really haven’t come to any conclusion as to how I might spend that precious week. I guess I’ll find out when or if the time ever comes.  How about you? Give it some thought!

Life in the Slow Lane

Be prepared for big changes in your life when Mother Nature and Father Time put their heads together and gang up on you.  If they decide it’s time for some new scenery, you might just as well give in gracefully and get ready to move. You’re going to Assisted Living.

Before you know it you find yourself unpacking in a completely different environment. Fortunately for me, when I realised I’d been had, my move became a family effort. Once I’d made my decision the gang enthusiastically jumped in  (perhaps a tad too enthusiastically?) and we got to work.

We checked out several likely possibilities, found a place we all agreed on, and went into action. Assisted Living residences go by such reassuring names as  ELDER HAVEN, GOOD SHEPHERD and SENIOR SERENITY, so right away the timid soul is presented with the idea of a warm, welcoming home.

Moving came with a few glitches and I wondered more than once if I’d have to go back to the thrift store I’d donated to so generously, in order to buy most of my things back, but that didn’t happen.  Eventually everything came together and here I am, settling into my new digs, adjusting to life in the slow lane.

Spacious homes and roomy apartments are a thing of the past. Your new living space will be about the size of a two-car garage, or even smaller, and the sight of your bed in the living area takes some getting used to.  If an unmade bed lays a guilt trip on you, you’d better be ready to tidy up the mess as soon as your eyes pop open every morning. Just pull the covers neatly up and pat them into place before you slide carefully out from under.  Works every time.

Management and employees all seem to be cheerful, caring,  kind and very capable. However, the first big adjustment comes when you realize privacy just went out the window.  No matter the level of your care, someone is keeping track of you. Whether you’re still independent, bedridden, or somewhere in between,  Big Brother, or more likely, Big Sister knows what you’re up to.

A firm tap on your door, followed by a smiling face popping around the corner, is no longer the surprise it was at first. Someone has come by to check you out. Blood pressure, weight, laundry, mealtime or a tray, trash removal, any of a myriad duties and services can bring them.  It might be as late as 1:00 a.m., they just want to be sure you’re still breathing. Not quite as invasive as a hospital where you swear you’re being wakened only to be sure you’re asleep. It’s all in your best interests and you soon learn to appreciate the attention.

No one ever raves about the food in assisted living facilities. It’s plentiful and adequate, what else can one say? Actually, we have few complaints here at my residence.  From soup to sweets, our chef is big on comfort food with a home-made taste. Who doesn’t like thick, creamy soups, casseroles and frosted brownies?

Family-friendly birthdays and holidays are given special attention, while activities and short sightseeing trips are planned for those who are interested and able.  Bingo and Bunco are big, and adult coloring is the new fad. Musical programs are very welcome.

And so it goes. Time passes, sometimes dragging and sometimes zipping by, depending on your mood and level of activity  Time has a way of doing that. New friends are made, visitors come and go, and outings become just a bit more difficult. Life in the slow lane settles around you, and you find it’s still enjoyable, just a whole lot quieter.

Quiet can be good, and that’s not all bad.

Treasures or Trash

Every so often we’re forced to come face to face with that never ending problem, cleaning out our closets, cupboards, garages and sheds. No matter who we are, sooner or later we have to acknowledge the reality of owning TOO MUCH STUFF.

Neatniks and slobs, we’re all the same, things begin to own us, rather than the reverse. Some few among us are able to maintain a little control, but if we were never  overly tidy to begin with, we can get in real trouble. I’ve long felt that any storage unit left unattended for as little as a day, will become a breeding ground for whatever might be inside.

I’ve never understood those unusual people who deliberately search out things to collect.  I never needed to collect anything, I just accumulated. Without half trying, I’m likely to find myself buried under mountains of things I’ve accumulated.

If I were clever enough I could arrange little displays of my more interesting pieces of trash and call them collections but I’ve long since filled up all available shelf space and table tops, and I’m afraid most everyone’s reaction would be, “Doesn’t she ever put anything away?” I’ll leave the collecting to the real collectors.

So, what can we do, those of us who are in real danger of suffocating under all the junk?  Well, a house fire would work, but there might be too many complications there, insurance companies getting nosy, police investigations, or the odds of ending up homeless, Fire can be recommended only in the most extreme cases.

There are always the time honored garage sales, yard sales, and such, but there again, not a good idea.  Too many of us have a tendency to buy more at other sales than we sell at our own. Definitely counter-productive.

Donations to thrift shops and charities have a two sided effect, too, They get rid of a lot of junque, and we feel good about ourselves afterwards, but this again is apt to be counter-productive.  The last time I gathered up a huge donation for my favorite thrift shop, I had to go down and buy back things I’d unintentionally given away in the spirit of charity.

Taking a minute to think seriously about the items and objects we own, we should ask ourselves just why they’re so hard to let go of.  Most of my clothes are almost as old as I am. If I could get them on I’d probably still be wearing them. Faded, holey, seams out, I don’t care. There’s an emotional connection there that keeps me hanging on to them, and I still treasure them all.

What is the oldest item or object you own?  Speaking for myself, I can’t think of a single thing I own that’s older than me.  I’m it, the oldest thing I own. I can’t remember at what age an object goes from being called “vintage” to becoming a genuine antique, but I’m pretty sure I’ve passed that milestone.

Rather than having increased in value over the years as a hand carved piece of furniture or a rare tapestry would, I’m afraid my personal value has decreased to the point where even the DMV no longer wants my remains. As for worldly goods, I never did own jewels, furs or old masters. I do have a pair of shoes that are so old I have no idea when or where they came from, but I don’t think they qualify as antiques yet.

So I ask myself,  “Why am I this way?” I can’t be the only one like this. Call me miserly, call me cheap, or call me a hoarder. I confess I’m all those things.

And what is your excuse?

Writing Your Will…and Rewriting…and…

Everyone needs a will.  No matter how little they own there will always be a few things someone will want.   Wills aren’t really that hard to write. Trust me on this, I’ve written and rewritten my will a dozen or more times.  I’m careful to date each and every copy. Being an avid reader of crime stories, I’m well aware that the most recent one is the only one that is legal.

A will doesn’t have to be fancy.  I usually throw in a few important sounding words and phrases, meaningless but semi-ostentatious, just to be sure I’ll be taken seriously.  “Bequeath” is good, “Herewith” is good, a few “thereuntos” are very good, and “The Undersigned” is impressive. I can only hope they’re legal.  Probably not; there are a few rules one should follow but I never have paid much attention to those.

I never bother with an attorney, either.  We’re not talking a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet type fortune here.  I’ve never been wealthy and if I live much longer my puny Nest Egg will have shrunk to something the size of a jelly bean anyway.  Wouldn’t it be comforting to have some advance warning as to the exact time and date of one’s demise so our dwindling funds would come out even with our life expectancy,  matching dollars to days?

Since that isn’t possible, I’ll just keep on writing and rewriting the same old will.  With my large family, no sooner do I get all the latest bequeaths and hereafters figured out than there will be a major upheaval of some sort beyond my control,  and I’ll be back to the drawing board.

Marriages, divorces. new babies, or worst of all, a big old family feud ending in a temper tantrum, usually on my part, all take their toll.  If somebody makes me mad enough, it’s time for a revision. I’ll ruthlessly cut them out of the latest version, chortling gleefully to myself.

So far I’ve managed to dump all of my cousins  (I never liked most of them anyway), most of my siblings, three of my many children and some nieces and nephews.

So will I ever write a final revision?  Considering the ups and downs of my life to now, who knows?  I either will . . . or I won’t.

I want to share a copy of a handwritten will I happen to have among my belongings.  This was written by my husband’s grandmother in 1924 and is a perfect example of the type of will I’ve been talking about. This simple, sweet  old soul bequeathed all of her treasures, consisting of her hand-made and decorated linens, plus one very special wish for a special person. She wrote in pencil and her punctuation was a bit free-form, as is mine,  but her spelling was perfect and the will is clear and lucid.

We might be a little dubious about the legality of making arrangements for the future of another human being but she’s very clear about being sure “Pa,” her beloved husband of 50-some years, is well cared for.

“February 15, 1924    My wishes I write down making known to you as near as I can, what shall be done with what belongs to me.

I want a room left for Pa, the best we have, his choice if he has any and plenty of bedding to keep him comfortable, cold or hot weather and anything he needs to make him comfortable.

(Next she mentions a few items of furniture, then she continues:)

“Irene gets the crocheted spread and pillow cover, with linen strips between.

Hazel gets the other spread and Leta has the table cover and all dining room crocheted work.

Ruth has the Sheet Sham, Pillow slips and Dresser Scarf to match as a keepsake from Grandma.

All other bedding, divide among you, if Gus can use any of it, if not you girls, Leta and Hazel divide it, without any trouble, only to get it all out of the way here as I want no one else to use up my old stuff that I have worked for and paid for, with my own work.

The wishes of Gertrude Fox Scott”

My Life of Crime

Browsing through a favorite book, published for writers, and entitled  “642 Things To Write About, ” I came across one suggestion that presented a really intriguing challenge.

“You are a customer lying face down on the floor, observing a bank robbery. Describe the robbery from this vantage point.”

Who could resist a dare like that?  It took some thinking before I finally came up with a scenario I liked. See what you think:

“Here I am, floating face down in a warm, ever widening puddle.  If only these hard tiles were covered with soft, plush carpeting,  that might soak up some of this puddle before I drown in it. How can one human bladder hold so much liquid? Stark fear will do that to you.

“This was supposed to be a quick errand, a brief dash into my bank to cash a check. I was wearing some old sweats and a cap pulled down over my dark glasses. I’ll admit I may have looked a bit sinister.

“I carried a pouchy  “Save-At-Sam’s” tote bag in one hand and my checkbook in the other.  The tote bag was just in case there was enough money left in my dwindling account to do a bit of shopping afterward.  Having succumbed to AMAZON PRIME’s online lures too many times, my financial situation was looking pretty grim.

“Just then the man at the counter ahead of me whirled around, shoved something down into my  “Save-At-Sam’s” tote and gave me a mighty push. So, here I am, flat on my face, handcuffed, on the verge of drowning, lying on top off my tote bag and staring up at a circle of black boots, black pant legs and drawn guns.  A hard, metallic- feeling object is digging into my ribs and I can only think “It’s a gun! I’ll be shot in the gullet before I drown! Which would be worst?”

“I’m jerked roughly to my feet, dripping wet and stinky, thrown in the back of a police car and  hauled off to the poky. The interrogation is not nice. My squishy appearance, my smell, the cocked gun and the poorly printed note pulled out of my tote don’t help my case. I keep insisting  “I know how to spell, I would never spell MONEY like that! I know how to spell MONEY, it has an E in it, it’s not MONY.”

“They finally buy my story when they find no  MONY on me, and a transient is apprehended while running madly through traffic, carrying a bank bag stuffed full of MONY.

“And so ends my life of crime, with me reeking of urine, shaking in my boots and vowing  to do all my banking on line in the future.

“Oh Yes, I’ll cut back on my AMAZON PRIME orders too so I don’t get that broke again.  For a brief moment there, I’ll admit, I was tempted to use the note and the gun for my own benefit.”