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Old Age OK Compared to Alternative
"I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top." - Will Rogers
Sometimes life is like a range of hills--you just keep seeing more hills to climb in front of you. I’m in an introspective mood where I look back at the long distance I’ve traveled even though it seems as if I just set out yesterday. When someone asked the French star, Maurice Chevalier, how he liked being seventy, he replied, "I do not like eet, but ven I conseedair zee alternateeve . . . " Ditto!.
The last of seven children, I feel fortunate to be alive. Two babies who came before me during the Great Depression didn’t survive birth. Mother though that this was because she was so ill nourished.
She considered it a miracle that I survived my difficult birth. Her doctor told his fellow physicians that he had just had a delivery where the placenta and umbilical cord came first. One of them said, "I’ll bet you delivered a dead baby, didn’t you?" "No," he said. "This one lived."
Mother said, "It took so long for you to be born and then to cry that I figured you were dead." The world might never have missed me, but I sure would have missed one heck of a good time!
Since then, enormous strides have been made in saving babies who once would have died. Our neighbor, Auntie Ida Kelly, earned her living by taking care of women and babies following childbirth. In those days, women spent a couple of weeks in bed, recovering. She told how she once kept a preemie warm in her oven. One of Bill’s great-great nephews weighed less than two pounds at birth and is now a healthy boy.
"Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable." - Will Rogers
Bill offered to throw a big party for me as he has in the past. "No," I said. "Not this time." When I went to the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee, I found a bottle of champagne, two glasses and a charming card suggesting that two is sometimes the right number for a celebration. Yes, two is all that is needed when one has a companionable spouse. My colleagues also gave me a bottle of Perrier Jouet, one of France’s finest champagnes. What riches!
One of the Nine Nifti Nicitinos, my high school chums, sent a card that I suspect is closer to my reality than my ideal of aging gracefully as did the dignified, gracious, willowy Jessie Nay Wagoner who was still lovely at eighty. On the card’s front is a snaggle-toothed, tough looking old woman who’s wearing a helmet, bomber jacket and goggles. The message reads, "Aging gracefully means different things to different people."
Actually, I’ve always rather aspired to becoming an eccentric because eccentrics are so interesting. My old granny was at the top of the class. She didn’t give a snap of her fingers about appearances or convention. When Grandpa, who was notoriously thrifty, refused to give her spending money she got a job in a restaurant. During that bygone era when it was considered "fast" to dye one’s hair, she decided to dye her unfashionable auburn hair. Alas, it turned purple so that she had to wear a hat for several months.
When she was old she smoked cigarettes in a black holder and drank beer before going to bed, claiming that it helped her sleep. One time she took a sleeping pill along with the beer, dozed off while smoking and singed her easy chair.
One of my favorite poems is “Warning" by Jenny Joseph. It’s the musings of a woman who is looking ahead to the future. She’s been good: She pays the rent, wears correct attire, sets a good example for the children and reads the newspaper. She will make up for the sobriety of her youth by becoming an old woman who wears a purple hat with a red dress, spends the butter money on satin sandals, summer gloves and brandy and gets fat from eating three pounds of sausages at a time. She’ll gobble up store samples, pick other people’s flowers and learn to spit.
My dear friend, Nancy, and I planned a private 70th birthday celebration where we’d do something naughty and daring. Oh how we used to chuckle about our plan.
And then she died . . . too soon . . .
Fun should not be postponed. Naughtiness requires someone to share it with.
Better we had been naughty sooner.
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