Having Fun Getting Old
For years and years I fought the facts of life – NOT THOSE! I fought the fact of life that I, the young man in a crummy old body, am getting OLD.
I used to protest loudly if someone even dared called me a “senior” that I was getting to be an old coot. Even when offered a 10% “Senior discount” by some (obviously visually challenged) young waitress in a restaurant – I’d get riled.
To make sure everyone knew I was not old, I’d skip down the street, walk really fast, and even jump up in the air like the guy from the Teeter-Hang Ups commercial who claims he is 74 -probably 80 by now – and jumps around like he’s 30 merely because he hangs upside down, like a bat in a cave, on some odd looking contraption he invented called Teeter Hang Ups. To be honest, it looks like a basket on a stick.
Many of you never saw this commercial so, you’re thinking I’m just making this up, but I swear it’s true. Google Teeter Hang Ups – you’ll see. Doubt me, will ya?
I think that guy snorts something or gets drunk before he jumps – there is just no way in the world that hanging upside down is going to make you younger. It may make you stronger as anything which does not kill you makes you stronger so they say, but where is the evidence of that?
I live a very boring life. Getting older adds to the boredom since I’m not old enough to have lost my short term memory, my mind, nor am I young enough to care – I’m a tween. You know that they call kids between 10 and 12 “tweens”? Right? Well sort-of old people like me are tweens too. We are tween lots of things. We are tween sanity and dementia, Alzheimer’s, and that old pine box – the great equalizer. Whether you’re filthy rich or dirt poor, you can be sure when they shove your embalmed carcass into the cold hard ground, we’re all equal – don’t matter what kind of grave stone you have. Yes, Grammar Police, I said “Don’t”, not “Doesn’t” because I’m too old to care what you think of my grammar.
I try to find things to do when I’m not fixing computers or writing newsletters or short stories – which end up unfinished and stored in obscure files buried on a USB drives tossed in a drawer with old tax returns.
One thing I do a lot of is read, but that’s becoming harder because I fall asleep after five or six pages. It’s really a long ride to read a 600-page novel like that. Darn good book, I say to myself as I drift off to the absolute absolution of sleep. Of course, two hours later I have to get up and go to the bathroom – or should I say stagger to the bathroom.
When I was in my 30’s, staggering to the bathroom had a much different meaning. My bladder don’t work right anymore, my body don’t work right anymore, and soon my mind won’t work right anymore- and it’s hard for me to muster up enough energy to even care anymore. As and old friend oft reminds me – it is what it is.
(Phone’s ringing. ‘cuse me. “Hello? Grammar police? Yeh I know I don’t use don’t correctly in this screed. You know what? I surely doesn’t care.” Which reminds me of “Don’t call me, Shirley!” Remember “Airplane!” the movie? )
Anyway, I’m so sorry for the interruption. I digress.
One day last week I decided to take a day-trip to one of our local nursing homes. No, no, no, just to see some people I used to know who are holed up there escaping the pressures of trying to live out their lives in bodies that don’t work right anymore and with brains don’t think right anymore. I won’t mention their names. not that they’d care, they can’t always remember their names either.
I have not yet reached that stage – which some of you are not doubting as you read this. But for the sake of this little essay, I’m going to call them Tim and Dee. Why Tim and Dee? Because each has only three letters and I’m lazy. And why am I lazy? Because I’m old and entitled to be lazy. So why type a name like Emmanuel or Isabella? If you want names like that, go write your own essays!
Now let me tell you, Tim and Dee are OLD. Not old like me, but REALLY old. They’ve been married for 70 years or so – in short, they’ve been married longer than I’ve been alive (but only slightly). When they got married, Harry Truman was president and gas was nineteen cents a gallon. Amos & Andy were famous on the radio, and Humphrey Bogart had not yet died, nor even married Lauren yet And I’m not making that up. Paul McCartney – hard to believe he’s going to be 76 this year) was 6 when they got married. Yes Paul is not only older than me, but he’s richer than me. If I had Paul’s money, I’d buy you all lunch… and sing you a song.
(Yes, grammar police, I said ME, not I. )
So I get to the nursing home -unfortunately- at lunch time. They’re having turkey and mashed potatoes and soupy corn which you all know as cream-style corn. Not many of the residents have teeth and none of them have good teeth. Some of them have good dentures, but most of them don’t bring them to lunch because they forgot them. They leave them soaking in a glass of Polident in their rooms. Too much trouble popping them in and out anymore. Anyway, who cares?
The food looks mushy to me, and I understand why. So, anyway, the nurse’s aide or whatever she is, asks if I’d like a tray. I can get one for $2.00. Two Dollars! I can get a whole tray of food for $2.00! Could you pass that up? Mush or not, I can’t pass it up. I’m hungry. While I’m waiting, I watch Tim and Dee dig in. Tim looks at Dee and asks her what the heck he’s eating. She says, “It’s turkey, honey” (how sweet!) and Tim looks at her with a serious expression and asks her if it’s Thanksgiving already. It’s only April – I know it, and apparently Dee knows it, but Tim seems oblivious. It doesn’t matter anyway.
Tim looks at me with a mouth full of mashed potatoes and says “Who the heck are you?” (He uses a stronger word than heck, but the last time I used that word I got emails condemning me for my foul mouth – or fingers as the case may be). I told him who I was and he has no idea. Dee looks at me and then looks at Tim and tell him that I used to their neighbor back on Chestnut Street. Then he says “You’re the damned fool that nearly burned down my storage shed, ain’t ya?”
He used a strong word than damned.
I have no idea what he means, so I just say I don’t remember. He looks at me and a big hunk of turkey falls out of his mouth and onto his baggy pants. He brushes off the mushy turkey off onto the floor. Dee looks at him with a compassionate look and at me with a look of “how long are you going to stay? Can’t you tell he doesn’t remember you or even like you”.
I’m not comfortable, but I’m trying to get a feel for my future here so I stay a little longer.
Luckily, just about then, the nurse’s aide brings in my tray of mushy turkey, mashed potatoes, soupy corn and green Jell-O. I thank her. The food does not actually smell too bad. I like things I don’t have to chew because chewing, even at my age is a lot of work. I could have eaten this entire meal through a straw. It was salty and it made me thirsty — but my weak coffee had grown lukewarm and therefore undrinkable.
“It’s Thanksgiving, where are the kids? They always have more important things to do than come see us!” Tim mused. “Honey, it’s not Thanksgiving. Easter was just two weeks ago. Remember the Easter egg hunt?” Dee said as she looked into his dull, filmy gray eyes. He wipes his nose and clears his throat a dozen times and snorts something about the kids not being there for Easter either. Dee tells him that not only were the kids there but the grand-kids too – and they even brought him an Easter basket filled with soft candy. “Well, where is it then?” he says grumpily. “You ate it, Tim . Don’t you remember?” He doesn’t remember. He drops his Jell-O on the floor and smooshes it around with his foot.
He looks at me and asks who I am again and I tell him. The Jell-O on the floor really bothers him and he grumbles about it and he swirls it around with his foot. He can’t bend over to reach it. The nurse ignores it. I fear they’re going to leave it there until he slips on it and kills himself. I get some paper towel and wipe it up as well as I can. I don’t want Tim to die because he slipped on a puddle of smooshed jello and cracked his skull.
I did a good deed and I feel good about it.
I look at Dee and now she’s all but telling me to leave. We hear snoring and Tim has fallen asleep. His toothless mouth gaping and he starts to drool in his sleep. Dee grabs a blanket. It takes her almost 5 minutes to walk the 10 feet to where Tim is sleeping. I was going to help her but I think she’d have slapped me.
She needs a Teeter Hang Up I think. Maybe hanging upside down like a bat works? How long do bats live? Ever seen a bat in a nursing home? I mean as a resident?
I decide to leave my “old friends”and go home. On the way home I start thinking how much like childhood being old is. It’s almost like being a baby all over again – the mushy food, the diapers, the groping for words, the caregivers. And almost everything is new every day. See, when you forget what happened an hour ago or a day ago, then just about everything you do is new!
I get home, open my book, read five pages and fall asleep. Like clockwork, two hours later my bladder calls and I stagger to the bathroom.
I’m having so much fun getting old. Maybe tomorrow I’ll trying hanging upside down in a basket on a stick.