If you want to feel old really fast get a new digital camera. At least the one I just got is making me feel that way. It came with not one but TWO user guides and some of the pages have such small print that I have to use a magnifying glass just to read them. Worse than that, the camera has a mode dial with tiny icons on it and without my handy-dandy magnifying glass I'd never know those little suckers are suppose to represent things like: portraits, night shots, indoors, landscapes, movies and a bunch of letters I've yet to decipher. It even has an icon for aquariums. Aquariums! Who needs that? What I want to see is an icon for starting my coffeemaker in the mornings.
My very first camera was a Kodak Brownie box camera that I got for Christmas when I was a kid. Brownies have very few moving parts---a shutter, a button and a spool to thread a roll of black and white film inside the glorified cardboard box. I still have that camera. And believe it or not, I've only had two other cameras in between that Brownie and my new Canon. One of those cameras was sold off last summer on eBay as an antique. That sale alone established me as having entered the realm of old-dom, but I already had my suspicions. Being old is like living in a parallel universe. You can function normally in the world but in the back of your mind you know that unlike most of the other humans moving about, you have no future. You only have today unless, of course, you like dwelling in the past.
Having just bought a camera that should come with a master's degree if you learn how to use all its functions, does it sound like I dwell in the past? No, but I'm not so sure Don, my husband, doesn't live back there. The other day we had one of those infamous 'conversations' that all spouses of aphasia and apraxia patients would label as what-the-hell-difference-does-it-make? He managed to get out the words 'employment,' 'Mrs.,' and 'house' plus the phrase 'long-long ago.' Two hours later of off and on again games of Twenty-One Questions I finally figured out Don was trying to say that a guy he had worked with and his wife came over to visit him fifteen years ago. He, of course, was thrilled that I cracked his coded speech but I was working hard to keep my weary brain together long enough not to blurt out, "What the hell difference does it make that you had company fifteen years ago?"
Indeed, what the hell difference DOES it matter what happened in the past? We can't go back there. Or can we? We can still day-dream about what was once upon a time and is no more. We can still buy 120 film to re-spool in Brownie box cameras. We can still capture life in black and white, but what fun would that be while everyone else is sending vivid color photographs around the world as fast as a mouse click? Dwelling on the past doesn't make us young again. It just makes us irrelevant.
I have a theory about what is missing the most in the lives of old people---goals. So I'm vowing to live long enough to learn all the functions on that new camera and Don has agreed to live long enough to fill all the slots in his new penny collectors album that goes up to the year 2020. Setting goals is a good thing. They make you do off the wall stuff like buy aquariums just so you can learn to take pictures of fish and to get pennies back in change to check.
Jean Riva 2009 ©