Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Class of '71


I went to my first-ever high school reunion last weekend. It was my husband’s. Forty years ago he and The Class of ‘71 graduated high school, never to hear from one another again. Then came Facebook. Social networking arrived, baby boomers took it over, and all those seniors who were going to change the world showed up on the web last year with gray hair and grandkids.

I met some of the crowd Saturday morning for breakfast and a tour of the old high school building. They were a nice group of people and I could see why Rob wanted to connect with them again. We walked the hallowed halls —now in a spooky state of decline—while the nostalgic seniors laughed and reminisced in the shadows of their alma mater. Standing near open, empty lockers covered in the dusty graffiti of generations of students, Rob’s classmates peered at my name tag and tried to place my face. Wish I’d been gutsy enough to make something up and see where it went. Something like, “I’m Rob’s twin sister, Elva, remember me?” After 35 years of marriage, ten of them spent here in his hometown, I know a lot of his childhood stories better than he does. To this day, every time we go down Siesta Drive, I beat Rob to the punch and point out Kenny Hipp’s old house. I’ve never even met Kenny Hipp.

Saturday night was “the dinner.” We walked into the banquet room of a local hotel and I had the sensation of stepping into a time capsule. Or a cliché. I couldn’t help it—as the DJ spun that timeless 70’s hit, “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog”, I was transported back to the insecurity of my own high school years and immediately began dieting.

Nametags in place, drinks in hand, we quickly absorbed into an American oddity known as The High School Reunion. “Hi, how are you?” became our mantra as we worked our way through the crowded room.

A slender gal with a self-conscious smile and familiar first name entered stage left on the arm of a man who looked like he’d rather be in a dentist chair than this room of strangers.

“Isn’t that your tenth grade crush?” I quipped to my husband, Rob, as I pointed out the attractive woman.

“I don’t know,” he said, squinting. “It could be.”

I knew it was. Sheesh. Maybe I did attend school with him—I spotted her before he did. Then again, that’s a good thing, right?

Settling in at a table away from the blaring music, I began sorting the guests into two categories: alumni and spouses. It was pretty easy to spot the spouses—they all wore the same uncomfortable look on their faces.

Across from me, an abandoned husband sat in gloom, giving short answers to my persistent questions as I looked for some common ground or interesting tidbit to run with. We planned to be here late partying with all the other 50 Somethings—Rob’s parents said to have fun and not to worry about knocking on their door when we got in—so I jumped right in to acting social and making friends.

“You said you have three children?” I asked. “Do you have any grandkids?” It seemed like a safe question.

“No grandchildren,” he replied. “And I don’t want any.”

Guess I won’t be bragging to you about mine then, I thought. Okey, dokee. I grabbed a piece of cake and stuffed my face so I’d quit making small talk. It killed five minutes.

An auburn haired lady on my right sat in silence with a yearbook in front of her. My husband’s yearbooks had long ago been eaten for lunch by termites—sad story—so I asked if I could look through the one she guarded.

“Well,” she answered slowly, “it’s not really mine. It belongs to a dead woman.”

Hmm, I thought to myself, it’ll be pretty hard to ask her permission to look at it.

“But you can read it,” she continued cautiously, “a friend of mine found it at an antique store.” Her eyes widened. “I guess that means we’re all antiques!” she exclaimed, and sobered at her own realization.

This was going to be a long night.

I looked around the room in desperation to locate my husband. Across the crowd we made eye contact. He nodded happily, raised his beer in a cheerful salute and returned to his conversation. I should have brought my knitting, I thought dryly.

With my dessert gone, I began to look for more uncomfortable spouses to interrogate. It was either that or start head banging to the music. A woman with dark hair and an expression to match had taken a seat next to me. She picked at her food while avoiding eye contact with the rest of the table, especially me. But I’m no quitter.

“Hi,” I said boldly. She looked at me in surprise, nodded and turned her attention back to her plate.

I leaned towards her and confided, “I’ve never been to one of these before.” I struck a chord there and she brightened.

“Neither have I,” she replied. “In high school I only had two friends.” Nibbling her sandwich absentmindedly, she turned away to gaze wistfully at the door. I began to gaze wistfully at it, too.

“This is not going well,” I muttered. With no other lonely people to annoy with my unappreciated wit, I made a mental note to take up drinking before the next reunion.

Striking out in the friendship department, I left the table of martyrs to search for the restroom. That killed another five minutes. I looped back into the noisy room full of inebriated laughter, wove my way through clusters of cheerleaders and thespians, and wandered out through the door the dark haired woman was memorizing. I figured three more loops like that and I could eat another piece of cake. In the hotel foyer I picked up a tourist guide with things to do in Sarasota. If I left now, I knew I could get in some shopping at the outlet mall and pick up Rob when the party wound down.

Instead I got that second cake slice and sat down next to the grandchild-less man. He stared, knowing I’d already eaten a piece. I didn’t care anymore. I’d already stopped dieting. As the last bit of icing disappeared from my plate, from out of nowhere a familiar voice whispered in my ear, “Can I get you anything?”

I turned around to face my husband, my own high school sweetheart. The love of my life for the last 37 years, I knew I could count on him to get me anything, anything at all. And at that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted—the very thing that would make this day complete. I’d had dinner. I’d had two desserts. I took a nice walk. I’d visited the facilities. There was only one more thing I still needed.

“Yes. Can you get me a cab?” I begged.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nature Calls


I should have realized something was amiss by the sneering half glance the woman gave me when I came through the door. Her snicker followed me as I headed back to the ‘corner of doom’. I felt my pulse quicken.

At a tiny gas station in east Texas we stopped for coffee and . . . The Bathroom. Strikes fear into your heart just thinking about it, doesn’t it? I should have listened to my inner coward.

The vacant ladies room door swayed ominously in the breeze, creaking a warning to “Beware.” Cautiously I entered the darkened hovel and peered into the . . . fragrant . . . abyss. Oh, Lord, I thought, so this is what a weapon of mass destruction looks like.

With my elbow I flipped on the light switch and a turbo charged engine roared to life in the tiny room. It was the hand dryer on the wall. Defensively, I smacked the wall and flipped the light off. The blower noise stopped. I rubbed my throbbing ears. Weird. Maybe it was just a short in the circuitry. I flipped the switch back on and was rewarded by 100 decibels of deafening machinery. I shut the light off again, stood with legs crossed in the silent darkness and considered my options. I could pee in the blackness or drive a hundred miles to the next dump on Interstate 10. I chose option three: recite ten Hail Mary’s and take my chances with the dying dryer. I closed the door and turned the lock with my knuckles.

“Well,” I thought as I sat down, “at least no one will try to walk in on me with the sound of that racket.” I hurried anyway. I glanced around the room, thinking my mother was right: you can get disfiguring diseases from a public restroom. Who knows when the Health Department stopped in last—they’re probably afraid to come here, too. Flushing the handle with a piece of toilet paper, I vowed not to have any more water or Coke for the rest of the trip. It’s dangerous to drink and drive, anyway. It leads to bathroom stops.

I turned on the faucet, pumped out some soap and lathered up like a surgeon. Rinsing the suds off, I ignored the running faucet—I wasn’t about to touch that thing now—and put my dripping hands under the dryer which had stopped blowing after I sat down. Hmm, so it comes on with the light switch and shuts off at the toilet. Now it wouldn’t come on at all. I moved my magic hands around it with wizard-like flourishes, hoping for a motion sensor. Nothing. I turned the light switch off and back on. Still nothing. My pants were buttoned and I was decent, so I opened the door, and the jet engine sprang to life. Figures.

Hands finally dry, I grabbed another wad of toilet paper and turned off the faucet, shut the light off with my other elbow, and headed outside to the safety of my sanitary truck.

“Have a nice da-a-ay,” the cashier said with a smirk. Smart aleck. She knew I’d need antibiotics soon.

I broke my temperance vow as soon as I got back in the truck. What can I say? I’m a sucker for iced coffee. And, true to form, thirty miles later I was begging God again for any little port-a-potty on the side of the road. Talk about a short memory. There’d been a sign four miles outside town advertising Dauna’s Grocery Store, and my eyes lit up until my husband said, “She can’t even spell ‘Donna’—what makes you think she can keep the bathroom clean?”

I knew he was right. I couldn’t risk it. We stopped instead at the town’s token gas station where it wasn’t hard to find the facilities. The door had a huge “Hunters Welcome” sign on it, with another sign reading “Unisex Restroom” above that. Awesome. I could hardly wait.

I should have waited. It covered all the bases worthy of being named ‘unisex’. A baby changing table on one wall, a urinal next to the unisex commode, and toilet paper dangling down to the dirty floor which was covered with—oh, you don’t want to know—next to the sink with the chipped concrete counter. A fly paraded on the toilet seat—two eyes focused on the dirty spray bottle of disinfectant on the tank’s lid, the other three watched me. I covered every possible surface with the abundant toilet paper and thanked God for small favors. Then, holding the handle with a wad of Charmin, I flushed the toilet, skipped the gummed up soap dispenser and the crusty faucet handles, and unlocked the door with more toilet paper. I pulled open the door handle with a final piece of toilet paper, making a mental note to advise the cashier that they were now out of toilet paper. I figured he wouldn’t care much. He was a man. I headed straight to the truck for a bottle of Purell in the glove box. God bless whoever invented that stuff.

A quarter of the mile down the road we passed Dauna’s cute, tidy little grocery store, and I glared at my husband who hadn’t needed to use the Hunter’s Haven of Horror.

“Look at that!” I exclaimed to Rob. “It’s a big country store with fresh jams and fruit. And the sign says Clean Restrooms!” Then I gave him ‘the look’.

“So did the last one,” he said dryly. “A great big one on the front window.”

“What?!!” I rolled down the window and let out the fly who’d followed me out to the car.

“Get out, you hitchhiker!” I yelled at it, and quickly rolled the window back up. It was Rob who snickered this time.

“You know,” I began, ignoring his dubious sense of humor while I bathed in hand sanitizer, “you and I could write a book warning people about all the crummy places where they should never stop when nature calls. I bet it’d be a best seller and we’d make enough money to retire.”

“Yeah!” he exclaimed, excited about the possibility of retiring on dirty money. “And we could call it “The Don’t Make The List Book!”

I think we might do it. It’s my gift to all the weary women travelers on America’s highways. And if it doesn’t work—if they won’t buy my book and save themselves while there’s still time—I’m gonna put up a roadside stand and sell toilet paper and Purell instead.

'Cuz, trust me, they’re gonna need it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reality Shows


I am heartbroken. Disillusioned. Unenamored. Discombobulated.

My ventures in blogging have led me to a terrible discovery. I read it on someone else’s blog, but I knew it couldn’t be true. It had to be a vicious rumor. Probably came straight out of The National Enquirer, and now she was capitalizing on a sensational accusation. How can you trust an anonymous writer on the Internet, anyway? There’s no accountability leading to no credibility which, of course, always leads to instability.

So I decided to google it.

Ohmigosh. It’s true.

My very favorite go-to show, ‘House Hunters’, is lying to us. Those picky home buyers never choose between the three places they walk through. In order to be chosen for an HGTV episode, an applicant must already have a contract on an existing home. Then they re-create the house hunting process with two additional homes that will never really be considered, and Ta-Da! We’re all sucked in to a fake reality show.

I am destroyed. Undone. Inconsolable. I bet those aren’t even real people they’re filming.

Now I’m suspicious of every other live or filmed-live tv show on my set. For example, I no longer trust anything on 'The Tonight Show'. While the band played on (or did they?) in last night’s intro, dozens of people hiding offstage in the darkened Stage Right and Stage Left suddenly rushed together onto the floor—like the Red Sea after the Israelites crossed—converging at once on Jay Leno, who stood expecting them as though he himself were Moses.

You can fool me once. You can fool me twice. But . . . well, I forget how that one goes. Here’s the deal. My keen intellect focused in immediately on what was really going on there. Those aren’t studio guests. They didn’t stand in line for hours hoping to become part of the studio audience. Jay doesn’t keep Purell wipes in his pants pockets so he can eradicate germs from his hands after he greets strangers. I figured it out—those aren’t visitors at all. Those are his neighbors, cousins, nieces and nephews, his tax consultant and his dentist! Paid fans! Each of them with their own dressing room and wardrobe staff and wigs and fake moustache collections.

Oh. Now I get it. They weren’t trying to shake his hand. They were reaching for their paychecks.

“That one was probably his mother!” I proclaimed to my husband who had closed his eyes during my tirade, pretending to be asleep.

I knew he wasn’t really sleeping. Reality doesn’t exist in my house either.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ostriches

God knows I prefer to stick my head in the sand. The last thing I want to do is put my name out there for someone to attack. I hate confrontation. I can barely get through “devil’s advocate” debates without dissolving into tears. If I could just be passionate without being dramatic, confident without being emotional. I believe I am being rational, though I worry that others will accuse me of saying the sky is falling. But I think the sky IS falling. The protective bubble of human rights, individual rights and constitutional rights is about to burst like the vaporous canopy that once covered the earth God created. Every culture on earth has a great flood story. The canopy above collapsed, the ground broke apart and it took a year before the waters receded.

Floods destroy.

I’m not just a hormonal, menopausal woman looking for a purpose in life who has decided to take on the TSA for a hobby. I’m a sensitive adult who couldn’t even watch a YouTube video last month showing a six-year-old being patted down in an airport. My God. What has happened to parental rights? Who will protect the children? More than that, who will console and counsel them after the trauma?

We need heroes.

Where are the men who will protect their women and children? I heard a phrase used during “The Undefeated”, a documentary about the way Sarah Palin was ripped apart by the media and politicians when she ran with John McCain in his candidacy. Everyone stood back and let her take the hits. The men who could and should have stepped up to defend her but did not were called ‘eunuchs’. Pathetic.

Long live Ignorance. So long, Chivalry.

Hang in there, Freedom. A Hero may show up yet.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tornadoes


I want to see a tornado. Not up close and personal. More like, distant and anonymous. The last thing I want to do is tick off a maniacal funnel of blustery wind and have it chase me down. I’m already on the run from a few people like that.

No, I want to get in a truck with my darlin’ (cuz he’s not afraid of much of anything) and drive due – whatever – towards some big black cloud in the distance, as long as it’s spewing hail and rain and lightning and thunder. You know, like the one Dorothy enjoyed.

My closest friends can’t believe it when I tell them I want to see a twister. “You?!” they say incredulously. “You’re afraid of being afraid! Why would you want to run after something that could tear you to pieces? On purpose?!” Well, I don’t WANT it to tear me to pieces. I just want it to pose nicely while I take its picture.

I don’t know WHY. Maybe chasing a tornado is my version of thrill seeking. It’s not like I want to bungee jump or anything. You could die of a stroke doing that. And I don’t want to see a tornado destroy lives or property. I just want to see one drop down out of a distant lightening-lit cloud, spin around threateningly in the middle of nowhere, and then close up shop and go home. You know, a little floor show with gusto.

It’s inevitable that my passion for rain would come to this. You can’t adore the wet stuff as much as I do while living for thirty years in the desert like I have and not have something snap. Look what happened to poor Moses. He ended up leading three million people into a raging river after spending that much time staring at cactus. Dehydration can do funny things to you.

Maybe if I get to see a tornado in person I’ll get over wanting to see one ever again. It would be a kind of shock therapy for the naive. And, I’d like to point out, it’s not my fault that I have this obsession. If TNT would quit showing “Twister” once a week while I’m channel surfing and play “The Sound of Music” instead, I might decide that singing while running away from blood-thirsty Nazis is a lot more fun than running towards a cyclone. Probably not, but maybe.

My sister took up scuba diving for fun once. She wanted to stare deadly ocean animals in the face while she invaded their natural habitat. Nobody called HER crazy. They all admired her love of the outdoors. Later she strapped herself to a stranger who hurled her out of an airplane at 13,000 feet so she could feel the wind in her face. She bought the video tape and the whole family applauded when they watched it. “You’re so courageous!” they gushed. My husband has spent thirty-five years bringing home a regular paycheck because he crawls into blazing infernos armed only with a combustible oxygen tank and a water hose. Everyone calls him a hero.

So the least people can do is admire my fascination with deviant weather anomalies and tell me to take an umbrella. It worked for Mary Poppins. And she’s practically perfect in every way.

A Snake In The Chapel

There was a snake in the chapel today—way up high, wrapped around one of the ceiling rafters. Perfectly camouflaged by the dark beam, it was hard to see him at first. I couldn’t tell from where I cowered in the corner if he was a venomous viper, but I didn’t really care. The point is, snakes don’t belong in chapels.

Most of us staring up at the trespasser were frightened to see him in attendance. Our first thought was that someone should get him down—not us, of course, but someone. Now. Before he slithered out of sight and re-appeared under a pew. Holy gatecrashers, Batman. Can you imagine the chaos if he tried to cozy up around the organist’s feet?

A couple of men stood directly beneath the interloper, scratching their chins and discussing strategic modes of attack. The snake yawned, bored, rearranged his head under his viper pit—and went to sleep.

He was a silent intruder. A mute disrupter. A secret spectator. But his presence did what serpents always do--it distracted us. Nobody could concentrate on worship with a coiled snake balanced overhead. We focused on our fear and how to get rid of it—and the snake, too.

Maybe what we should have done was just sit down –a couple of rows back from the “drop zone”, of course—and enter in to the holy of holies as planned. Why worry about the reptile overhead aiming for your coiffeur like a skydiver at a state fair? It’s not like he could land on his feet, anyway. And quit calculating the trigonometry you’d need to scale the summit of an eighteen-foot ceiling using a six-foot ladder.
The snake would be the least of your problems if the theory of gravity wins out over your Pythagorean theorem.

Okay, so I wasn’t one of the mighty men bent on removing the charlatan from God’s sanctuary. When it comes to spiritual warfare, I’m the one with flat feet and poor eyesight begging to be excused from hand to hand combat. Or in this case, hand to . . . vertebrae. Eewww. My husband, my hero, tried to see if he could knock the reptile down with one or two well-aimed, smooth stones. I just hoped his catch was as good as his aim.

We stood around in that chapel for a good forty-five minutes and never figured out what to do about the snake. No one had a ladder big enough. There weren’t any smooth stones lying around. The best we could do was take a picture of the crazy thing sleeping in the shadows overhead. It did absolutely nothing but show up, and our focus was destroyed. We gave our full attention to the disturbing creation instead of its Creator and left the chapel the same way we came in: frustrated, confused and a little defeated.

We haven’t changed much, have we? I think this is the same conflict that threw the whole human race into a tailspin in the first place.

Picture this: a snake shows up in Eve’s kitchen, acting like he belongs there, promising to improve her menu options, and the next thing you know, we’re all eating leftovers out of a dumpster. Why? Because she hadn’t been through Spiritual Warfare 101 and never learned how to tell a snake where to go? Or maybe it was Adam’s fault. After all, he had the throwing arm but didn’t pick up any rocks. Never mind the biggest question of all - snakes could talk? The bottom line is this: the only threat to their peace was the lie the serpent fed them. And they swallowed it - hook, line and sinker. Just like we all do.

It’s all about what we believe. Did you know the word ‘lie’ is hidden in the word ‘believe’? I just noticed that. Hidden lies. Interesting. We can believe truth or we can believe lies. We’re faced with both in every situation. And whether or not I pick up five smooth stones to exterminate the enemy when he tries to intimidate me, or choose instead to huddle with the rest of the frightened army, my response to the challenge begins with what I believe about God.

I can recoil from peace, let vain imaginations control me, and slink off in defeat, leaving the visitor overhead wondering if it was something he said. Or I can stand in God’s presence with soldiers at my side and snakes in the rafters, thanking God that He created them all and is bigger than they are.

I want to stand in the shadow of the Almighty and believe He stands between me and every assault on my peace. He said He’s for me. I believe He means it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Doggie Dance

My husband used to drive an old Toyota shortbed landcruiser. It was 'A Man’s Truck’. It had no air conditioning, no power steering or automatic transmission, and hardly any brakes. Rob loved that truck. I didn’t mind riding in it, but I hated to drive it. On this particular day, though, I had no choice. I’d signed up our mis-named dog, Harmony, for some training, so she’d quit knocking our kids down every time they went outside. And we could only restrain her in Rob’s truck.

Now, I need you to understand—we homeschooled our kids through high school. They both went to college. They graduated with honors. Our son has a master’s degree. But our dog couldn’t even make it through obedience school. She flunked out the first hour and I went home with scars on my face!

Rob couldn’t go with me to the first lesson because he was teaching a class in Chandler. He left the landcruiser for me to drive, but neither one of us remembered I’d also need the key. So I took the kids to a friend’s house who loaned me her car, then I raced over to where Rob was teaching, got the key, raced back to my friend’s home where I returned her car along with the broken pieces of her sideview mirror . . .sigh. Don’t ask. I loaded the kids in the truck, got the dog chained up inside, and then we all did the braking/lurching/driving thing all the way to Tempe where I left the kids with another friend, and then Harmony and I made it to the park in Mesa with about ten minutes to spare.

I parked, went around to the back of the landcruiser, and lifted up the rear window so I could unchain and release the hound . . . but she jumped out before I could do that. There she was, hanging out the rear window by her neck! She looked like some kind of horrifying Tim Burton Christmas tree ornament.

I finally got her loose, and then Harmony took the lead . . . literally. She drug me all over that park, running circles around my legs and between my feet, tripping me in front of God and everybody. They all knew. We were doggie trash.

All of a sudden I realized that the lead had gone slack in my hands. Because Harmony’s tiny little head—inspired by her tiny little brain—had pulled completely out of the collar, and now, she, Who Knew Not Her Name, was a free agent. Run amuck. Through the whole park.

So there I went, running after her, yelling, waving the collar wildly in the air and hoping she’d just . . . keep going! But somebody caught her. Now I had to put the collar back on her. Once again she and I did the Canine Two-Step all the way back to the starting gate, where the instructor had witnessed the entire floor show.

She walked over to me and said in a surly, patronizing sort of way, “Ya know, if you put the choke collar on her, you’ll have more control.” Right. I hadn’t had control since I brought this dog home from the pound. I gave it to her and asked her to put it in the dog, but she said I’d bought the wrong size and I’d have to “go over there and buy a new one.”

Well, that was impossible. There was no way I could hang on to this lunatic dog with one hand while I wrote a check for a new collar at the same time. I knew when I was licked. I decided to just go home. I would come back next week . . . with Rob.

One more time, we did the Doggie Dance all the way back to the landcruiser where I lifted up the rear window again and reached down to pick up my forty-five pound wonder dog who knew how to jump OUT of a truck but NOT INTO one!! I got her up almost shoulder-high when she wiggled in my arms and bumped the truck, which caused the window to fall—full force—onto the bridge of my nose.

The pain was blinding. I didn’t even know what happened! But I was pretty sure . . . it was the dog’s fault. And I wished with all my heart that she’d hung herself when we arrived. I still held her, but now, she seemed light as a feather, and THIS time I had NO TROUBLE getting her into the back of the landcruiser!

I went around to the front seat where I found a filthy Kleenex inside the man’s truck. Mopping the blood on my face with it, I went back to the registration table to ask for a refund. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for them to give me my money back. I just told them what happened.

“The dog! . . . and . . .the collar . . was too . . and then the WINDOW! . . . on my nose!” They practically threw the money at me—I think I made ten bucks on the deal.

I took Harmony home, and then I drove back to where Rob was still teaching. You see, my husband is a paramedic. My Knight In Shining Armor. And I knew, he would take one look at his battered bride, drop everything he was doing, and rush me to the emergency room where they would prep me for surgery.I went up the stairs and knocked on his door . . . again. He came outside this time, took one look at me and exclaimed, “What happened?!!”

He thought I got beat up in the parking lot. So I explained. . . clearly. . . Laura Petrie style.

“The dog! . . . and the collar . . was . . . too . . and then the WINDOW! . . . on my nose!”

You know. I really think it was just too much information for him. He threw an arm around my shoulders, gave me a quick brotherly hug, and said,

“Well, honey, I don’t think it’s broken. And uh, look, I’ve gotta finish teaching this class. Tell you what, why don’t you, go home and, uh, put a bandaid on it! You’re gonna be fine.”

And . . . he disappeared inside the building.

You know, the last time my husband showed that level of . . . concern . . . I was in labor with our first child, and just as I reached transition, Rob looked at me the way only a young, inexperienced husband can, and said, “I don’t think you have a very high threshold of pain!”

They always say you’ll forget the physical sensations of childbirth. But I’m sorry to report—that may be the only thing women ever forget.

Well, the next morning I had two beautiful black eyes and an attractive butterfly bandage on my nose—which was NOT broken—courtesy of my nurse friend when I picked up the kids. Rob did finish teaching his class that night, but later . . . he realized he may have missed an opportunity when I showed up the second time. After all, I was a real patient with a real injury.

And he was teaching a first aid class . . . on bandaging.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Secret of Being Old


I guess it was bound to happen. I’ve been dodging this bullet for a while, walking around with my fingers in my ears while I sing that catchy tune, “la la la la la! I can’t hear you!”

I just found out I’m old. I know, right?! Can you believe that? You should have seen me drop my bifocals when I heard it.

I can’t understand how the secret got out. After all, I spend an awful lot of my husband’s hard earned cash camouflaging whatever terrifying color is hiding under these jazzy red curls just so people will have to ask themselves, “Does she or doesn’t she . . . have an updated will?”

It’s not like I don’t try to take care of myself. I had my second ever facial yesterday and the aesthetician (who looks my daughter’s age . . . hmm) never once called any of my freckles “age spots.” She may have mentioned that “as we grow older” we need more hydrating, but I thought she was recommending the bottled water I got from the cute staff of teenagers at the front counter--the kids who called me “honey” and “sweetie” when I checked out. They sure were nice.

And I know it wasn’t any wrinkles that gave it away. One of my buddies moved up a little higher on my best friend list last week when she told me I have a baby face. How could a baby faced woman my age be old? She didn’t have her glasses on when she said it, and I did immediately pick up the lunch tab, but still—I know it’s true. I figured out a while ago that wrinkles don’t show as much if they’re fluffed up with . . . fluff. So I ordered dessert for both of us that day. That poor little skinny thing – she could do with a little more fluffing herself. (You didn’t hear that from me.)

I decided to do a little investigating. And since I’ve recently gone a’bloggin’, I figured I should look for clues in my bio. People can get the wrong idea from the most innocent sounding words, you know.

Grandmother. Okay. Well, I'll admit that certainly sounds old. Actually, I’m known ‘round these parts as YaYa since “grand” anything sounds elderly to me and I refuse to use it to identify myself. Hence, I am NOT known as GrandYaYa. Therefore, I am not old.

Movies I Like
. Yeah, there are some pretty old titles in there. For example, “While You Were Sleeping.” If you’ve never seen it, you might think it’s about that old guy with the long, long beard who fell asleep for a hundred years, and when he woke up everyone else was dead and he was the only person alive, or maybe that’s the original version of Sleeping Beauty?? I don’t mind being called a sleeping beauty, though. I’ve been taking a few more naps lately.

Interests: Starbucks. Hey, lots of young people hang out there with me (see, ‘hang out’ is a cool expression, right? Is ‘cool’ still a cool expression?) Of course, they all call me m’am and hold the door for me and smile patiently when I use phrases like ‘hang out’. Or maybe they’re just snickering because some of my body parts that used to hang in are now . . . hanging out . . . or down . . . hmmm . . .

And there’s a photo on that bio. But it’s kind of a sexy photo in a Well That’s The Best Picture We Can Expect To Get Of You At Your Age kind of way . . . I don’t think it makes me look old. Then again, it is an old picture. I guess if I was being really honest with myself, I’d have to admit it has been a long time since I was a kid. I mean, in dog years, it’s been so long, by now I’d have been dead at least twice. And I’d definitely call a dog who lived twice his expected lifetime “old.”

Ohmigosh, it’s true. I AM old. Poor Rob. He could trade me in for two twenty’s now that I’m past forty, but it’s too late for him, too. He’s not wired for 220. He'd blow a fuse.

The thing is, inside this imposter body there’s a young woman who still feels 29. Which is not actually my chronological age, of course. That would be physically impossible since my son just turned 30 on Sunday. I did have him early, though. Two weeks early. Still, no one is more surprised than me when I walk by a mirror and realize a middle-aged woman is horning in on my reflection. Where did she come from? I love her hair color, though.

I know I’m not alone in this discovery. I hang out with a few old friends who are also being stalked by a mature likeness of themselves. And we’ve come to a surprising conclusion over our Early Bird Specials—growing older ain’t all bad. After all, we’ve earned every hidden gray hair and fat-fluffed wrinkle. We’ve outlived our mothers’ conflicting prophecies. (“Stop sitting so close to that tv or you’ll go blind . . . and eat your carrots so you can see in the dark.”) We’ve survived the birth, the middle, and the empty nest exits of our children. And now we get to enjoy the reward for not following through on our death threats to our kids – grandparenting.

I think the best way to view life’s portrayal of our extensive experience is to take it as a compliment. After all, in the words of an old person who forgot to take credit for them, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”

I know wisdom when I see it. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know.