Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't Fade Away

The other day I was out walking the dog.

Actually, here’s how that sentence should read in “mother-ese”: The other day, while a load of laundry was spinning in the old front-loader, I was walking the dog that our daughter begged us to get, promising that she’d feed, walk, and never neglect this animal which she has long-since done. (Never underestimate a mother’s ability to inject guilt into the most unlikely places.)

Anyhoo…poor sentence structure aside, I was walking the dog that I now refer to as mine. We were approaching a church near our house and I noticed an elderly woman sitting on the side stoop in front of the church. She looked perfectly happy. She started saying something to me. I ripped my ear buds out and politely said: “I’m sorry, what?”

“Is today Sunday?” she asked.

“No. Today is Wednesday, April 23rd,” I replied.

“I did it again,” she said in a disgusted tone. “I guess I’ll go back home.”

She didn’t seem frail or fragile, so I really wasn’t worried about her getting home, so the dog and I continued our walk. But of course, I started thinking about her and how she ended up sitting in front of a church awaiting a service that wouldn’t start for five more days. I figured that she probably lives alone and that time escapes all of us. We jokingly ask each other what day it is and talk about losing track of days. But who’s to say that one day I won’t end up sitting in front of my church?

There, but for the grace of God, go I. And nearly a week later, I can’t get that lady out of my head. How did she get there? What was her prior life like? Did her kids forget about her? Did she age quickly because she constantly had to walk and clean up after her child’s dog?

Welcome, my friends, to my mid-life crisis. Some people long for and/or purchase sports cars. Others have extra-marital affairs. Many opt for cosmetic surgery. I obsess over death and aging.

This new stage of my life has snuck up on me. I didn’t think I’d fall prey to it. I don’t color my hair - I highlight with grey. I have no plans to nip and tuck. (Although trust me, somebody could make a killing on this body.) I consider myself younger than I am and try to act accordingly…within reason.

I do, however, think about aging. I think about attacking it head-on. I make comments to my husband about how and where I’d like to live when I am less than ambulatory. I give him suggestions for my funeral. When issues come up with our own aging parents, I boldly tell him that we won’t be caught in that situation.

And it goes further than that. I read the death notices…every day. I love the notices with photos. I’m particularly fascinated with the trend toward choosing a photo from a younger and more attractive time in life. (Note to self: Do not use school photo from 8th grade.) I read these mini biographies and feel ashamed that mine will seem so short and unimpressive in comparison.

I’m especially perplexed by the memorials that appear on a daily basis. They always have a photo of the deceased, usually on a birthday or death anniversary, followed by a poem or short missive…to the deceased. They’re touching, but really, really sad. It’s people publicly not letting go. That’s what confuses me. No matter what we think about death, is that really the only way that we can stay in touch with our long-gone loved ones? The newspaper? Really? I want my family to know they can save the cash and send me an e-mail. I promise to read it, although I likely won’t respond…except in perhaps a somewhat mystical way like hiding the TV remote just to piss them all off!

Anyway, I have no idea how to really do it. Age gracefully, that is. I’m quite hung up on several things: 1) When I am old, I do not want to constantly talk about my medical issues. 2) I have told my friends that I will not be caught dead in a red hat and an ugly polyester purple shirt. Never. 3) I pray fervently that I won’t tell pointless, endless stories unless I’m sharing those stories with people that were there who can fill in the details and laugh stupidly along with me. 4) I don’t want my kids or my husband wiping my butt. Seriously. There are professionals who do that and I’d like to find the very best. 5) I hope to say outrageous things that will make my kids blush and make my grandkids want to hang around me…at least a little bit.

And I guess that’s the secret. To be remembered. Somehow. To make an impact and to never just fade into the wallpaper. To go out in a blaze of glory, whether it’s organizing wheelchair races at the nursing home or drinking beer and cheering on the Packers, long after I’m too old to attend games. I just want to be remembered.

And I don’t want to sit outside church on a Wednesday. But if I do. Here’s what I’ll say: “Oh, shit! I did it again.” Mission accomplished.


At 10:08 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Excellent, Karen! I share your sentiments, especially as they pertain to growing older and how to handle it. I have a red hat (one I've had since before THAT group started) and now I am loathe to wear it, lest someone think that is the reason I have it....LOL. I don't want my family wiping my butt either.EW. I already make my kids blush (especially my daughter-in-law) and my grandkids told their aunt just a week ago that I am cool! I think I just reached my goal, but I hope that they still think I'm cool 10 years from now.

At 12:27 PM , Blogger Em said...

What an excellent attitude. Embrace it with gusto. Don't try to deny age. We are all getting let's make it really good!

Though I do understand the bit of obsession about it. I can get caught up in that, as well.

And I just love the story of the woman on the stoop. I really want to know what happened!

At 11:03 PM , Blogger Omykiss said...

Hello Karen ... I love the way you've approached the aging issue... with a mixture of seriousness and humour ... I'm going to be 60 soon ... I don't feel THAT old. Love your blog ... I'm here from Michele ....

At 5:33 PM , Anonymous shannon said...

Are you trying to make a point about senior moments by listing #3 twice ;)? Really though, if you age as gracefully as you write, I don't think you'll have any problems...

At 5:51 AM , Blogger Karen said...

Shannon - you caught me. To quote Homer Simpson - "Doh!" I have since edited and now am correctly least I think I am!

At 12:04 AM , Anonymous Linda said...

What a great articulation of aging gracefully. I have tried to take the lead from my great aunt and my step grandmother. Both of them lived life to the fullest and took care of themselves. They were independent, free thinking, women who were not afraid of aging because they were forever young because of the way they viewed life and death.

At 3:25 PM , Blogger Jess Riley said...

I loved your list of things you won't do when you're old.

Also, how much do I love you for the kind words you said about Driving Sideways!!! You made my day. :)

At 4:24 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

I've always admired you for your attitude, Karen, so this entry is no surprise at all.

I read the obits, too, for reasons remarkably similar to yours. I, too, plan a more active role in my, um, evolution.

I've got a front-row seat these days to some very close relatives who have gone about the whole aging thing in exactly the wrong way, so I vow to manage the journey entirely differently than they have.

Michele sent me today, but I'd have dropped by on my before long.

At 2:33 PM , Blogger Bob-kat said...

Yeah, your list of things not to do sounds similar to internal promises I have made.

You're so right about the being remembered bit. I guess it's a little bit more difficult if you haven't got kids to do it. Perhaps that old lady never had children and so no-one is around to tell her what day it is? And there, but for the grace of god, go I.

Michele sent me over to say I love your posts!

At 1:05 PM , Anonymous Sol said...

I came from Michele's... I love this post. Enjoy your writing. I have come to the conclusion that I'm simply put going to live the best I can and not cross bridges before they're built. I got tired of falling off bridges not yet built and coming up all wet!!


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