January 4, 2009

Fly Swatters & Old Friendships

One of the nice parts about going to all the June graduation parties is that we get to see people we haven’t seen in a long time. Now that Don is wheelchair bound, we’re obligated to be one of the first cars---if not THE first---to arrive. Otherwise there is always an unloading problem, of being able to thread the chair through cars that might be parked too close together. Being the first to arrive has other advantages. We get to see everyone come in, one by one. What a wonderful awakening that was this year.

We see ourselves in the mirror every day and maybe we think, “God, I’m getting older or fatter or looking dowdier than usual.” If you’re female, like me, you might also do a chin hair check and wonder if you could stand on your head would gravity pull your breasts back to where they belong. Then we might pin that woo-is-me look on our faces and wish we could find an exorcist to make that person in the mirror go away. The only thing good about looking old is that people offer you senior discounts and your dog doesn’t seem to care so long as you can still open that treat bag.

At a recent grad party was a relative I hadn’t seen in a couple of years and the physical change in her was quite noticeable. She’d put on twenty-five or thirty pounds, was wearing a wig, and she had that old-lady-with-sore-knees gait. And, like me, she’d also given up the pretense of trying to look prettier with the addition of make-up---what’s the point? With the failing sense of color that people get into in their sixties who really knows what our faces look like when they’re viewed through younger eyes? A circus clown? A cadaver on a slab? At a certain point in your life you have to give in to the fact that you can’t win the war against time with a bleach or dye bottle and a lot of make-up. Even the plastic surgery addicts and Botox mammas are easy to spot. Just crack a joke in their presences and their faces look like frozen Popsicles, unable to move.

Another relative we ran into at a grad party also had to let out a few seams in her underwear but her sense of humor and quick wit were just the same as they were back when we were kids. It was good to laugh again until my sides hurt. And no one else but someone you’ve known for fifty years could have gotten away with saying: “I LOVE THIS! ---watching Jean trying to teach Don to say words! Don talked so much before his stroke that she didn’t get a chance to say anything for thirty years.” Don, he’s always game for a good laugh, even if it’s on him, so he soon followed up her remark with, “Oops!” and everyone starts laughing all over again.

But the most heartwarming, awakening of going to the grad parties this year was seeing the relatives I didn’t even recognize because they’ve changed so much in the last few years. I can’t tell you how good that made me feel! Like duh, why didn’t it ever occur to me when I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror that I’m not living in a vacuum? My peer age group is proceeding through our life-cycles right on schedule. We’re all wrinkling up and plumping out into a sea of gray-haired wonders with a wealth of history behind us. The young, under forty-ish kids might be able to move faster or look cuter, but when it comes to making up a list of all the things you can do with a fly swatter, we old duffers will win in a landslide. Don’t ask! But I’ll tell this much. Six old people with vivid imaginations don’t need a bar and a case of Bud Lights to have a good time.

Life as been good and looking back can really recharge your batteries.

Jean Riva ©

Painting: The Way You Hear it is The Way You Sing it by Jan Steen (1665)


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