Sunday, November 30, 2008

Little Indignities

The other day a student rushed up for a hug. Then she looked at me and asked, "Why do you have two different shoes on?"

I looked down at my feet. Sure enough, the left foot wore a blue shoe, the right one a brown. I have taken to wearing Crocs since a bout with plantar fasciitis so at least I was wearing the same style shoe. They were just not the same color.

I grinned at her. "It's weird shoe day, didn't you get the notice?" I asked. She shook her head. Then she took off down the hall to ask her friends if it really was weird shoe day. I ducked into my classroom. Later in the day I saw the same student in the hall. "I think you're the only one who got the weird shoe day notice, Ms. Clarke," she confided. "No one else did!"


J burst out laughing when I related the story to her and told me about the day she went to work with her skirt on inside out. If anyone noticed they didn't mention it. Finally a student asked her why she had those funny threads on her skirt. J looked down. Sure enough, all her seams were showing. She hustled into the women's room and righted herself. "It was dark when I got dressed," she made excuse. I know. It's dark in my closet, too.

As if looking foolish wasn't enough for the day, that night I got out of bed to use the facilities. I caught my foot on a basket of magazines that I've avoided on my nightly trips for the past 8 years. My balance, never good since an inner ear infection, deserted me completely and I fell. Fortunately a chair stopped my body and the china cabinet stopped my face. I crept painfully into the bathroom to inspect the damage, fully expecting to see the beginnings of a black eye and a split lip. I thought I detected some minor swelling and two red spots on chin and forehead but the next morning there was not a mark on my face. You'd think I'd at least have had a bruise to show for all the pain, some swelling and a shiner to brag about.

"That's how it starts, Memere," my daughter-in-law said ominously when I joked to her about being old and falling. "I was able to get up by myself, though," I reminded her, feeling suddenly much older. While we spoke, I moved the offending magazine basket.

I am not yet, nor do I want to be, at the emergency-call-button-night-light-on-clear-path-to-the-bathroom stage of old. J says we just have to take these things in stride. At least, she reminds me, we're still laughing at our mishaps. I just wish I wasn't laughing so often!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Signs Everywhere

J & I were discussing general decline the other day and she remarked, "There are just no red flags. You can be driving down the street and suddenly you can't remember where you were going."

I know that feeling!" I exclaimed. "Just yesterday I was on my way somewhere and I found myself in town rather than on the road home. I thought, 'Where is my car going?' It took me a moment to remember that I wasn't on my way home."

"Well, wherever it is that I'm going, I'm not sure I want to get there," she said, looking down at her hands. She held them up for me to see. They looked just like mine - used hands full of aching knuckles, age spots and wrinkles. "But, apparently I'm going despite myself." We both sighed.

The next day, a particularly warm one for late October, she stopped by to chat. I was out on the glider swing in my yard, basking in the sunshine. I was dressed in the shorts I kept putting away and taking back out as the weather see-sawed through early autumn. She laughed when I stood up.

"Look!" she cried. "You have gnome knees, too!"

I looked down. Sure enough, my knees looked like they belonged to the Saggy-Baggy Elephant. I thought wistfully of the ultra-slim me of years before. I went inside to put on the kettle (and a pair of concealing jeans.)

"It seems like our ends give out first," J said over tea. "My feet ache, my hands ache, even my hair hurts. And look at it!" She pulled a hank of it forward. "It has no body, it won't hold a curl, it isn't even a color anymore."

We consoled ourselves with a piece of pie. Chocolate cream. I'd had a craving the day before. "At least my end is plump," I observed. "And it matches my knees." Pie does wonders for all things saggy - including self esteem.

Speaking of decline, if there is one book you are going to read this year, make it Peak Everything by Richard Heinberg. It might scare you (he talks about inevitables) but it also might make you take a look at our society as you would your aging body and start now to make what amends you can and plans around what you can't fix. For this decline, we've had plenty of red flags.