Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Giving Me the Creaks

The alarm rings, my eyes open. So far, so good. Then I try to roll over to turn it off. I hear a strange noise from somewhere nearby, a sort of whistling, sighing, moaning followed by a grunt. I realize it's me. My body is protesting out loud. In fact, lately my body is doing a lot of things out loud that it ought to do silently, or at least surreptitiously.

I remember smirking when an older friend of my mother's apologized at the start of each visit for any graceless sounds her body might make while she was there. She creaked and crackled when she sat down, she snorted when she laughed, she farted when she stood up. "God spare me," I prayed, worried that in 30 years I'd be apologizing myself. For myself.

My prayers were not heard. You should hear the sounds with which my body entertains the world! And not only is it becoming obviously noisy, it's also behaving in other odd ways. I have to get up off the floor in stages now, rather than in one fluid movement. First a roll to one side, a push onto the knees, an obligatory grunt, then the rise to my feet, all within reaching distance of some solid object. Getting up from a sofa or a soft armchair requires a mighty push and an unladylike sound. When I try to walk after I've been sitting down for some time, I find myself taking several ungainly steps as a hunchback before I can straighten up and walk like the runway model I've always longed to be.

When I was a child my mother made me walk about with an encyclopedia balanced on my head. She said it would improve my posture. Now my head feels as heavy as that encyclopedia and lolls about on my neck when I'm tired, as though it were about to roll off to bed without me. I am subject to sudden nap jerks (especially during long and completely unnecessary staff meetings), and fall asleep well before 9 o'clock every night. I'm told I snore.

This morning I got up and looked in the mirror. I snorted when I laughed. I did not recognize the woman there and was too tired to ask her what she was doing in my bathroom mirror at 5:30 a.m. My joints creaked when I reached across the bed to straighten the quilt. I groaned while pulling on my socks. By the time I'd pulled on my boots, my coat, my hat, my mittens and picked up the shovel to clear the front path, I was huffing and puffing. I did feel more like myself once the shoveling was done and I'd returned from a brisk walk in the cold air. I ascribed the mewling noise that escaped me when I bent over to remove my boots to the cat and blamed that odd little popping sound on the neighbor's dog.

I noticed in the last few years that my hearing has diminished a tad. It's a good thing. I figure that by the time I'm 102 none of these strange bodily noises will bother me at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The List

We all grow older and with age come certain deficiencies. I have a very dear, much older friend with whom I spend time and as her eyesight has diminished (along with her hearing and her memory), certain aspects of her housekeeping and personal appearance have suffered. Wishing to spare my children the embarrassment of having to clean up after me or suffer for my sake, I have devised this list so that I don't forget to remember how to behave in my dotage. When I told my daughter about it she laughed. "Oh Mom," she said, "you'll forget where you put the list and then where will we be?"

Well, the list will be right here. I will just have to remember to read my own blogs.

1. I will wash the bathroom, the kitchen floor, the stove top, and the counters every day even if I don't think they are that dirty. I will pretend that vacuuming and mopping are part of daily my exercise routine.

2. Likewise, I will change my clothing every day and make sure to do the laundry often. I do not want to look good in what I eat!

3. I will practice facial gestures in the mirror until I can do them automatically. One can sometimes tell what another is saying by paying close attention to body language and gestures. I will have an "uh huh" face, an "oh no!" face, and an "of course!" face all down pat.

4. Just to be on the safe side, I will wear my reading glasses and hearing aids (if someday I have either) when company comes even though they may be uncomfortable and I will hate admitting to needing them. I know how exasperating it is to repeat something a half dozen times with ever increasing volume. It must be equally as exasperating to have no clue what the other person is saying (despite facial gestures and body language)!

5. I will always wear my false teeth (if someday I need those, too) when eating in the company of others.

6. I will announce my nap times beforehand so that I won't be caught snoring open mouthed or drooling on the pillow by unexpected drop-in visitors.

7. I will allow (nay, even encourage) my guests to bring food rather than force them to bravely swallow whatever concoction I thought I knew how to make.

8. I will turn around and check to see if I did indeed turn the lights off.

9. I will wear three sweaters, socks, and a hat rather than keep the heat set at a comfortable 92 degrees.

10. I will write down the address of this blog post and keep it handy. I know my days are numbered.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Lately, I've found myself reaching more and more for my magnifying glass. I've tried those drugstore glasses with the graduations of magnification but they don't help a bit. I know it's time for new glasses, possibly - gasp! - reading glasses but money is short and glasses are expensive.

This morning the kitchen drain was a bit sluggish. I hauled the bottle of Drano out from under the sink and looked at the directions. Who in the world do they think can see that tiny print? The letters crawled across the label like ants in grass. I tipped the bottle toward the light. I squinted. I held the bottle close, then far away. Finally I relented and reached for the magnifying glass. The ants stopped moving and formed letters that spelled, "Allow to work for 15 minutes then flush with hot water." Oh.

Later J brought over the Sunday paper. The headlines blared up and down the page so I know that a reporter went skydiving and lived to tell about it, there's a new police chief one town over and, look at this! a new eye wear designer has replaced a nationwide eyeglass chain at the local mall. Well, good. Now I can't afford designer frames just as much as I couldn't afford the chain store variety.

Who needs glasses anyhow? I use my magnifying glass for all sorts of things. It makes the eye of a needle look like a yawning chasm, shows me the number of ibuprofen I can safely swallow at any given time, illuminates the fine print on credit card contracts, and tells me things I don't want to know about what's in my food. I know eventually I will have to rob Peter to pay the eye doctor but until then my trusty magnifier will keep me in the know.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Life Is In the Details

(my new patio, furnished with tag sale chairs, donated slates, umbrella, and table, and decorated with transfer station finds. Cost? Free!)

It's summer! One of the joys of the season is combing the multitude of yard or tag sales that flourish on the weekends. Because both J and I are frugal Yankees by nature, have somewhat limited incomes, and take delight in using discarded things in new ways, we often join forces on a Saturday or Sunday (or both) and take advantage of someone else's urge to clean out the house, the attic, the garage etc. Every week the local penny saver is chock full of ads for sales and I religiously circle them, mapping out a route for us to take and starring those sales that list some of the myriad things for which we are always on the hunt.

This weekend was no exception. Two sales in particular caught my eye. Both were in the same town and both listed all sorts of items we had on our perpetual lists. I circled them with glee, called J and off we went. We entered town from one end, hoping there'd be a parking space somewhere in the middle of Main Street (which in the small towns around here is never more than a quarter of a mile long) so that we could walk to either sale.

"Odd that there's no traffic," remarked J. "Parking will be a cinch!" Then we saw the sign. It was nearly billboard-sized. GIANT TAG SALE it shouted in red letters. The dates were printed below. J looked at me. "What dates did the paper list?" she asked. I checked.

"Oh. Ummmm...," I muttered. "It says here that the sale is next week."

J burst out laughing. This wasn't the first time I'd gotten pre-excited about a sale. The last two times we'd gone tagging I'd made the same mistake. "I never did check the dates," I confessed. "I just assumed they were this weekend." (Never assume. You know what it makes out of u and me.)

J snatched the paper from my hands. She looked at the circles and stars and started reading the dates for herself. Not only was the giant sale next weekend, so were two others that's I'd circled with my enthusiastic pink marker.

"That's it!" she exclaimed. "Next week I'm checking the paper. You can't be trusted."

You'd think, after all these years paying attention to every little detail required of home-keeping, raising children, working, and caring for myself, I'd be able to remember to check the dates in a tag sale ad. I am attributing the lapse to the aging process, hoping that as the years go by and all that's left for me to do is check tag sale dates, my expertise will triumph.

There's never a loss without some small gain, though. Instead of tag sales, we traipsed off to the transfer station where the price is always right and the date doesn't matter.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

IPhone as Brain Replacement

"If you put my working body parts together with those of my husband, you still wouldn't have a whole functioning human being," J half-joked the other day. We were sitting in the car and I was gearing myself up to open the door and get out. I've had pain in my left shoulder for a couple of weeks now and certain movements make me uncomfortable indeed.

"Add mine to the mix and you still wouldn't make the grade," I said, not joking at all.

Why is it that everything seems to be falling apart at an accelerated rate? Wasn't it just yesterday I noticed all these wrinkles? These age spotted hands? A sudden crick in the knee? The gray hair? I grunt when I get out of bed in the middle of the night, say ooof when I try to get up off my knees (the same second grader who remarked that I looked older than John McCain sometimes offers to help me get up off the floor). I creak when I bend over and creak again when I straighten up. Little involuntary sounds escape without warning whenever I move too suddenly.

And what's with the forgetfulness? Yesterday J's son Bri brought home a small parakeet, a lovely little blue and yellow thing in a green cage. "What have you named it?" I asked when I first saw it. He said he hadn't given it a name yet. We talked a bit about the bird's period of adjustment with two cats in residence, what to feed the wee thing and where the best place in the house was for a captive bird. Near a window? Hanging from the kitchen ceiling?

"What have you named it?" I asked, and then, "I just asked you that, didn't I?" Bri just looked at me and shook his head.

On recounting this to J, she laughed. "He was probably thinking, 'Oh lordy, I'll have to be taking care of her along with my aging parents.' "

I see that same sort of half-impatient, half-worried look on my own children's faces when I say something I suddenly realize I've said already, and probably a dozen times. This has been going on for years, true ("We know Mom, we know," was a constant refrain in our house), but all of a sudden it seems to be happening more frequently. Maybe it's because I live alone and I can't remember if what I'm saying is new to my audience or something I've only mumbled aloud to myself. I've been playing Scrabble and doing crossword puzzles and taking Mensa tests in an effort to keep my mind nimble and my memory intact - maybe it's because I live alone and I can't remember if what I'm saying is new to my audience or something I've only mumbled aloud to myself.

I want some magic pill to slow things down, to let me age a little more slowly. My daughter recently purchased an iPhone, the little computer in a handheld box that does it all. If man can invent the iPhone, surely s/he can come up with something equally impressive to prolong the life of our most personal computer; what I need is an iPhone brain implant.

photo credit:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The phone rings the other evening. “How’re things?” asks J. When she asks me, I know just which things she’s referring to—the aches, pains, missteps, forgetfulness, pratfalls, and mishaps that come with our age territory. So I hedge my answer. “Good,” I say, “and you?”

“Well,” she says, “I’ve had a problem with dry eyes lately so I got some artificial tears. The other morning I stumbled into the bathroom, took the bottle from the medicine cabinet, tipped it up and squeezed. Nothing came out so I squeezed harder. Still nothing. By now I’m shaking the bottle and squishing it so hard my fingers hurt and all I get is a teensy drop. ‘It can’t be empty already,’ I say to myself and try squeezing some into the other eye. I’m practically strangling the bottle and all that comes out is a miniscule amount.”

She is laughing so I figure it’s okay if I laugh, too. “So, did you go out and buy more?” I ask.

“No. (Long pause.) I took the cap off the bottle. I was squeezing that sucker so hard I actually forced some liquid out with the cap on! Of course, when I did take the cap off, the stuff squirted all over the place.”

“Oh, by the way,” I say in an effort to take her mind off the hoot I just let out. “You know the other day you asked if I’d ever left my purse anywhere and didn't notice?” (Of course, she’d just done that very thing and called to warn me.)

She started to chuckle again. “Where’d you leave yours?”

“At the doctor’s office. And the very next day at a friend’s house.”

“You left it somewhere two days in a row?” J laughed.

“I did. And when I returned to the doctor’s office to get it, the woman behind the window laughed and said, ‘Don’t feel bad, dear. You aren’t the only one.’ There lined up on her counter were three black purses waiting for their owners to realize they were missing.

“ ‘What, are we all the same age?’ I asked. She just nodded.”

photo credit: 07/

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Seeing the Light

When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to grow up. I was thinking in terms of freedom, autonomy, and privilege, not near-sightedness, difficulty hearing, and general creakiness. How little we notice when we’re young!

I first realized I needed glasses when I was driving to the store and saw a small child ahead waiting by the side of the road. I hoped he wouldn’t decide to cross just as I reached him but I needn’t have worried. He was a mailbox.

I related this story to J the other day when we were comparing middle-aged notes. She confessed to having just the opposite problem. “I can tell the difference between a chickadee and a junco at 10 yards,” she said, “but I can’t see what’s right in front of me.” Then she gave me a for-instance.

One day a week, she cleans house for a client. She was waxing the furniture and noticed her dust rag was getting awfully wet. “It just dragged along every surface,” she said. It wasn’t until she went to put the can away that she realized why. She had dusted the entire house with pet repellent spray rather than Pledge. “The cans were the same color,” she explained as I started to laugh.

Things got worse as the week progressed. The very next morning, still sleepy and bleary-eyed, J reached into the cupboard for a packet of hot cocoa mix. She ripped it open, dumped the contents into a cup and added boiling water. The fumes from the instant chili mix made her eyes open right up. Another morning she took a jar of fruit off the shelf. She wondered why it was closed with a metal ring and a sealed lid, but she persisted in opening the jar and spooning the contents into a bowl.

Her first taste showed her her mistake. “You know those pickles you gave me in August?” she asked. I gasped.

“I ate half that jar for breakfast, anyway,” she confessed as I started to hoot.

Her husband came in on the last of our conversation. “You know,” he said to his wife, “I wish you’d take that blue tarp off the clothesline. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up and waved, thinking it was Pauline coming over to visit.”

I don’t wish for the same things I did when I was 12. Now I just wish I didn’t look so much like a large piece of blue plastic.