Tag Archives: aging

I’m Rich

My Grandma Howard used to say — chortle, really — ‘I’m rich,’ when referring to her six grandchildren. Funny, because she was a mostly unsentimental person about family and everything else (and also because she was rich, money wise).
I’m reading a book* about a man who has suffered a violent assault and is recovering at home, full of pain and rage, his memory addled. All he wants is to return to what was once so unremarkable he was entirely unseeing of it: his ordinary life. He wants to be just a man putting on his jacket before leaving for work in the morning, stopping to rinse out a coffee cup and check his pocket for keys. Unremarkable except when it’s all gone and you no longer have a job to go to or the ability to make coffee or the dexterity to use keys or the mobility required to walk down a sidewalk on your own. I read in this both a caution and an invitation. Notice all these things, they are not yours forever (the bad news). Don’t dismiss your ordinary blessings because you’re too busy wanting other things. Also (and the good news): while you have them you are rich indeed.
*The Witch Elm by Tana French

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How to be 60: Find Your Peeps

I seek women of my age or stage who look cool and proud and smart and stylish and modern. I imagine they recognize one or more of these qualities in me and we acknowledge each other as we pass, silently. ‘I see you, lady!’

This requires that the woman not be arrogant or self-involved or have some similar blinding factor. (Note: arrogance and self-involvement are limiting!”) Why? Because otherwise they won’t see me. 

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I Feel Bad About My Neck

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This is the title of a book of Nora Ephron essays, which, when I got it as a Christmas present, I found dated and schtick-y (I also thought, at the time, I’m too young for this). But now it happens to be true, though I feel like a bad feminist for admitting it. Maybe I should reframe the emotion as ‘I feel good about turtlenecks.’

 

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What 50-Year-Olds Know… etc.

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A blog post from The Ladders about “What 50 year-olds Know That 20-year-olds Don’t.”  I object only to the photo of a woman who’s, like, 80, which makes me suspect that someone who’s, like, 20, chose it. Also, these two are just not helpful.

  • “You’re probably a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for being” (notable exception: our stable genius of a president)
  • “It’ll all work out” (It will. But that doesn’t mean I will like it.)
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Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven

This from the heart-breaking poem called “Washing the Elephant.”

And here’s the heart-breaking part:

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven,” instead of “being one with God will make your mother and father pointless.
Lily sent this to me after a weekend in Florida, visiting not one but two in-laws in not one but two Memory Care facilities in not one but two cities, not one but two hours away from each other.
In many ways, mother-in-law Mary is already gone. She who rests her forehead on the tabletop as we converse with her, falling asleep, startling awake, drifting off again to who knows where. Come to think of it, we didn’t even think about taking a photo of us together.
On the other side of the state, father-in-law Al is all too aware of his decline. He is failing, before our very eyes, but so slowly, that it comes as a hard surprise when whole functions disappear: walking, conversation, self-feeding. He wants to tell us a “cute story,” but its meaning evaporates after a set-up that involves a company, its sales force, a trip to another city.
Perhaps to compensate, we took many, many photos of him. As if to keep him with us? His last few words with me were so lovely: “You classed up this whole operation,” he said of me about my role in the di Costanzo family.

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So here’s to “the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines and frown lines on the face” And here’s to the rest of the poem:

Washing the Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree-shade big enough for the vast savannahs
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fueling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?
What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.
Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkercheif of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land O’Lakes, and two Camels.
If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Of the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tuunnel
and down 34th Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken
pathos.
It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like Popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.
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This is what 96 looks like

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Playbill reports that actress Carol Channing turned 96 this week and, by the looks of her, she’s sticking with her winning style: tousled silver bob, foot-long lashes, big red lips, a dress like a disco ball. I was about to write that I best remember her in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” but in skimming the libretto, I recall none of this: devil-may-care paperclip salesman? ‘several white girls tied up to be sent off to Peking?’ And somehow all of this adding up to ‘the happiest motion picture hit of the year?’ Funny, too, how Millie is thought of as “modern” when she takes a job of a stenographer, then marries a millionaire.

Regardless, many happy returns Miss Channing! thoroughly_modern_millie

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Makeup Free Movement, as reported by blogger Atypical60

Catherine gets real about “no makeup,” better called “some makeup” and also “lots of makeup.”

Source: Makeup Free Movement? Nope. I’m of the Make Me Up Movement!!!

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Dementia speaks

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Proud Mary

Here’s are some of the things Mary, my mother-in-law, said to me while I sat beside her in the rehab center:

I think I’m going to have a feel a big feel

Would it be wrong if I just walked out

OK but don’t get in the garbage

No he’s not at all .. 

Every time I see one dressed as a Bar… I can’t believe it

Do you want me to tell you about Capelina?

Would you like to take this one?

She is churching, Marjean, churching

Her bossy, Proud Mary (as I’ve always thought of her) manner of speaking is the same: full-throated, declarative, emphatic. And the sentences start off as something you want to listen to. But then they quickly lose their meaning. Is she searching for words she can’t find? Does she finish the thoughts in her head? Does she imagine she is speaking to someone else, someone who is actually conversing back, which would explain the pauses, the redirection, the listening-look she has on her face.

He has the cobell

He has the coball

What are you saying

That won’t work

He’s always last

O.K., don’t worry about it

I rarely ever see him

Do you have everything, anything

It’s the hideon. He’s the hideon

What else to say about Proud Mary? Never remarried after a mid-life divorce, Mary sold used cars, holding her own against an all-male sales crew. She had that deep, loud voice; a full-bodied figure, at once mannish and womanly; fiery red hair. She was an at-home mom who could have been a professional actress but settled for grabbing all the good roles in Milwaukee’s community theater productions. She could be sharply critical; was quick to anger. She mixed margaritas, disco-danced at parties. “Susie Homemaker, she was not,” my husband, who had a complicated relationship with her, says.

The thing is, Mary’s still alive. Somewhere within her wasted body mind and dementia-fogged brain, Proud Mary’s still in there. But, oh the indignities she suffers! Oh the (to me) horrors of her memory care unit at the assisted-living facility! I say “to me” because it’s unclear whether she feels anything (frustration? embarrassment?) when the nurse’s aid changes her adult diaper or spoons pudding into her mouth. And now I’m back to thoughts on end-of-life and good death, more of which is here.

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This is What 68 Looks Like

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Linda Rodin: Girl-Crush-Worthy

I don’t know Linda Rodin, except for what I’ve read on Goop. The profile is as breathless and overstated as you’d expect from a pro-woman web site. To clarify, the sites and their intentions are good, but the boss-lady profiles tend to bog down in superlatives. Here’s the first sentence, awkward in its girl crush: “There’s lit-from-within in the “glow” sense, and there’s lit-from-within from the standpoint of visibly, joyfully vibrating with energy …

Etcetera.

The thing is, Linda Rodin just seems cool and natural and a little chary in her responses to questions about her slim build and good skin. “Everybody sees these pictures of me retouched. I don’t look like that! People say, you look so great, but I mean, we’re not having lunch together, that’s not how I really look,” she says.

Here’s how she looks:

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Linda Rodin, age 68

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Linda Rodin: Sleeping Beauty

Rodin has a skincare line called Olio Lusso, from which I have a tiny bottle of skin oil. If it would help me look like her at 68 and, most especially, be that cool, I’d buy it by the barrel, along with a tube of lipstick called Billie on Her Bike, because the name’s so, so good.

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BILLIE ON THE BIKE Inspired by Linda’s mother Beatrice, aka “Billie,” this violet berry is the shade she wore to ride her bicycle, work in the garden or to do just about everything.

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