And now we are old….
So you have turned 50, which is young…if you are tree. It is midlife for an elephant and ancient for hot shot like you.
Fifty is a nice number for a speed limit but it is not a number one would associate with us. Fifty is supposed to be our parent’s age.
A poet named Browning considered fifty to be the best change of all. He said it this way…”Grow Old with Me, the best is yet to come”. On the days I need an aspirin just to get out of bed, I think Browning is clearly a minor poet.
Old is always fifteen years from now. It seems like only yesterday we were fifteen and old people were people of forty who were always looking for a place to sit down. Now we are the one looking for a chair.
So now we are the ones who have to drink skim milk, which looks like wash from a paintbrush; whose stomach has refused to process another jalapeno pepper, and one for whom lobster is crustacean cyanide. “If you want lobster”, my doctor says, “you may eat the shell.”
I am now a woman with the ability to dial a telephone and while the phone is ringing I will forget who I am calling. Of course if you answer I will recognize your voice and because I can’t remember why I called you, I will pretend that you called me and you will believe me because you can’t remember why you are standing there holding the phone.
What is old? To a child of seven, ten is old and to a child of ten, twenty-five is middle aged. To most of us we think of 50 as an archeological exhibit.
All the assorted part of us used to be flat and hard but in these last twenty years, like good gravy, I have thickened. I now have love handles. I think a person should only have handles on their sides if someone is going to climb up them.
For a man the humiliation comes in wearing bigger jockey shorts. Most men are convinced that on a diet of chocolate cake and self-deception they will one day see their belly button.
Women on the other hand pray daily for longer arms or for God to move their feet higher. They just want to be able to put on their shoes without feeling like they have just given birth.
And so we are at the stage of life when we need trifocals. You know these modern ingenious scientific inventions. You see things far away at the top, 50 yards away in the middle and close up on the bottom. Wearing trifocals can turn a simple walk into the asphalt equivalent of a trip up Mount Everest. First you go for the knob of the door. You have walked through this door a million times, should be no problem. All you have to do is figure out where the doorknob is. In one lens of your glasses it is two hundred feet away. In another it is directly on top of you and in the third it is missing altogether.
Now you know why we walk in tiny careful steps. We don’t want to walk off the edge of the cliff.
So what was I saying…see none of you can remember either…
Short-term memory is challenging. These days whenever I come into a room I need all my skills to remember why I came in there. They say if you retrace your steps you will remember but I can’t remember where I came from so…
The worst thing about getting old is the mind fog. It is like London at dawn. For example you try using a rhyme to remember where you parked your car at the shopping mall. You sing to yourself…Roses are red, my Ford is blue, An A1 Car in Row A2. When you exit the store you are saying “Roses are red, my car must be near, am I insured for losing it here?”
Some days I need a cute little yellow sign taped to my back that says “Nobody on Board.”
There is another neat little mind trick that gets played on old people. You forget the name of the person you not only know well but at that very moment are expected to introduce. I am capable of forgetting the name of someone I know well…like for example…my child. I can walk up to a group of people who have never met him and I will say…This is my son…um…um….
Even rehearsing his name doesn’t help. I practice and say to myself, now don’t forget the name of your son..you know…um..what’s his name.
You can’t laugh at me because you are training for old age as well. You look at a sealed envelope and wonder if you put the letter inside. That is only a short step from wondering if the return address is right.
You can lose your way, your memory, your car but how about losing your house. I had someone ask me my address. I replied Forty Nine North 12th which is a wonderful address but it doesn’t happen to be mine. You have given someone an address of a place you have not lived for over 12 years. Your mind has become like the French post office, it has trouble forwarding things.
Now where was I? I can’t find my train of thought. Oh let’s face it, most days I can’t even find the train station.
The one good thing about getting old is that you get along better with old people. I used to look at you and think, “Oh brother, she is really losing it.” Now we both look blankly at each other while I think..”hmm, is she supposed to say knock knock or am I?”
So I asked my doctor is there anything I can do about getting older. He asks me “Are you eating?” I say “Of Course” He says “well stop.”
“Eliminate anything with taste. No salt, no sugar, egg yolks, red meat, whole milk and anything that looks or smells good. Try to build your meals around parsley.”
At this stage of your life you will find that lemon juice is now the all-purpose seasoning, you squeeze it over fish you have cooked with no salt and chicken you have cooked with no skin and eggs you have cooked with no yolks. No wonder we drink.
So tonight I ordered French toast but hold the bread and no egg yolks or butter. They brought me a plate of syrup.
There are lots of things you can still eat. Have you tried Swedish Wheat Thins. Did you know depression is the highest among Swedes. I am sure there is connection.
Of course everyone tells me that I look good. In fact the older I get the more often I am told how good I look. I think my looks might just reach their peak right about the time they are going to bury me. I mean I look good compared to whom, people in intensive care?
Most of the time when I talk to young people, I speak a language that is foreign to them because I refer to things that happened more than three years ago.
Nothing is more dismaying than losing your points of reference. Getting a blank look from a young person because you mentioned the name John Diefenbaker.
George Santayana once said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But the problem is: who is George Santayna: Ask anyone under fifty and they will tell you he was either a short stop for the Indians or the president of Guatemala.
So never let the young people know that you think a compact disc is a sturdy spine and never say to them “That was before your time because the last full moon was before their time.”
Never say, “When I was your age because you were older than them at conception.
My thinking is that there is no such things as the “Good Ole Days”. These are the good ole days even though we sometimes need a roto-rooter man just to clear our throats, even though the executive at the bank looks like someone who should be delivering pizza and even though we now need a key ring that whistles when we clap.
Now you are 50. The highlight of your day is a nap. Water flows from a small ravine in your navel when you take a shower. Now you begin thing you have picked up malaria because the room has gotten so much hotter.
We will be together in our old age. We will sit in our chairs fanning ourselves with all the windows open while the heater tries to warm up our feet. We will mix fighting old age and accepting it. We will yell “Defense” and go get our nails done.
From our joints that need 3in1 oil, to our intestines that are begging for custard, to our eyes that are now proud of their ability to at least be able to distinguish night from day. I am counting my blessings of which you are one.
My philosophy is this –
I am convinced even at 50 that we must live our lives as if we are immortal. I know immortality is a long shot but someone has to be first.
Happy Birthday my friend