Tag Archives: Aging

Believe deeply

The veteran actor with the bushy eyebrows and the glum visage — who seemed ancient 40 years ago when he was playing a tired police detective on “Barney Miller” — died yesterday.

Abe Vigoda is dead. For reals.

If “enjoy” is the right verb, I enjoyed his obituary in the newspaper this morning, which imparted this little bit of wisdom for those among us who are grasping for meaning as we age:

Vigoda quote

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It’s about time

I finally saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

I say “finally” because the movie had grossed in excess of $700 million before I plunked down my $9.50 (plus the cost of a buttery popcorn and a Perrier — yeah, it was that kind of theater).

And then I read a couple chapters from Donald Trump’s Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again before I went to bed (I’ll have a lot more to say about the book when I finish it).

And then I dreamed all night of Donald Trump in the desert (he was winning, I’ll tell ya!) Which was better than the dream the night before that I was drowning under a house, but not much.

I liked the movie though the plot was a bit, well, workmanlike. It hit all the right notes, but I can’t say I was surprised. What surprised me most was the conversation I heard in the ladies bathroom after the movie.

A crowd of four senior couples filed into the theater seats behind us after was sat down for the movie, and by “senior” I don’t mean “senior in high school.” The female members of the group gathered in the ladies restroom post flick and discussed it through the stall doors. Three out of four of them had never seen a “Star Wars” movie.

This shocked me. Never seen a “Star Wars” movie? How can that be? I’m a science fiction fan, I guess. “Star Wars” is de riguer viewing.

“Did the first one come out in the ’70s?” one asked.

“My boys saw it, but I didn’t have time,” said another.

Ah. That’s the real difference between me and those women. They were mothers. Mothers who were juggling 100 different priorities while raising their children in the ’70s. Seeing a movie when there’s ironing to be done, homework to help with, dinner to make? Unthinkable. It was probably a luxury of time they didn’t have.

Which explains why these 70-somethings had spent three hours of their evening in a movie theater watching the seventh installment of a movie series they’d never bothered to see before.

It wasn’t because they had the interest necessarily.

It’s because they had the time.

How to fake being an old lady at exercise class

So I joined a new gym recently and I love participating in the exercise classes. Like Full-Body Toning and BodyPump and Step Like You Mean It.

Just kidding about that last one. That’s not the real name. It’s a step class just like I used to do in the ’80s.

Oh my god. Has it been that long?

Yes. Back then, I had my own step, I inserted a videotape into my VCR and Jane Fonda barked me into exercise submission while I sweated away in the middle of my living room.

The instructors at the my classes nowadays probably don’t even know who Jane Fonda is.

And they certainly don’t know what a VCR is.

But there are some benefits to being one of the oldest women in these classes filled with young suburban mothers. Let’s call it Red Hat Syndrome.

Surely you’ve heard the poem that begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” An entire sorority of women has been formed around the ethos of that poem: When I get old, I won’t care what other people think.

It’s an especially useful attitude in exercise class.

For example, I don’t care if you can see the cellulite on my butt through my tight spandex capris. And I don’t care if I’m using baby 5-pound weights during the biceps routine, and I really don’t care when I give up doing sit-ups half-way through so I can catch my breath or if people have to walk around me after class because I’m still in the way stretching my Achilles tendon.

If anyone is judging me during exercise class, I don’t care. Because I know I’m better than 90 percent of the rest of the population who are still in bed or sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

So when I show up to claim my 6-by-6-foot spot on the exercise floor, I take the one up front and by the mirror.

Because I don’t care!

A bonus benefit of being the old lady up front is I think people actually feel a little sorry for me. The teacher loudly mentions, “It’s OK not to use weights for this one — you can use your body weight.” And the girl behind me isn’t looking at my measly weights and even measlier biceps — she’s thinking, “Oh, good for her! I hope I’m still doing exercise classes at her age!”

And because I don’t care if I wear my hair in a ponytail and I don’t have any makeup on, I might even invest in a red baseball cap to wear to class.

Because that’s how old ladies roll.

Or step.

What it means when a centenarian goes shoe shopping

As I’ve sorted through my grandmother’s journals this week, I found a funny photocopied essay she squirreled away in the back of one of the books.

Now, to find it amusing, you have to know Grandma. She’s 100, and she lived on her own until two weeks before her last birthday, so she’s pretty healthy (for 100), clear-headed, tough (she has, after all, lived in Minnesota for a century) and she’s got a great sense of humor (I wouldn’t be surprised if she told someone April Fools Day is her favorite holiday — that reminds me, I need to look up April 1st in her journals over the decades).

She’s also just a little bit vain. Not in a bad way — I admire this about her. Her earrings always match her outfit, for instance, and she colored her hair into her 80s. It must be working for her — she’s never been overweight and she’s 100 years old. In fact, I dedicated my last book to her because “she proves vanity is a virtue.” When I last visited her a few weeks ago, I accompanied her and my dad to an appointment with her eye doctor. On the way home, she wanted to stop at a nearby shoe store because she was looking for a particular type of sandal — my 100-year-old grandmother was shoe shopping! How great is that?! (I found it amusing when we couldn’t find quite the right style of sandal and the sales lady helpfully suggested the sandal selection would be more vast in the spring. I hope my 100-year-old fashion-conscious grandma will shopping for new sandals next spring!)

So I find this little essay tucked into one of her journals, which she began keeping when she was 70. It’s titled “The Stranger” (a quick internet search reveals the author to be Rose Madeline Mula). It starts like this:

A very weird thing has happened. A strange old lady has moved into my house. I have no idea who she is, where she came from, or how she got in. …

She is a clever old lady, and manages to keep out of sight for the most part, but whenever I pass a mirror, I catch a glimpse of her. And whenever I look in the mirror to check my appearance, there she is, hogging the whole thing, completely obliterating my gorgeous face and body. This is very rude. I have tried screaming at her, but she just screams back.

It continues for several paragraphs describing how the Stranger “plays nasty games …altering my clothes” and doing “something really sinister to the volume controls on my TV, radio and telephone. Now, all I hear are mumbles and whispers” and other mean tricks.

I find this amusing, as I stand on the precipice of 50 (14 months, 7 days away, not that I’m counting or anything). There’s a strange middle-aged lady in my house with a flabby butt and crow’s feet who leaves marbles in my shoes and makes it difficult for me to recall exactly the right word without a thesaurus.

I find a little comfort knowing Grandma felt this way at 70something and yet, she’s still going strong, getting her hair done, painting her nails and shopping for shoes.

That’s the old lady I want to be. One who, despite being unable to unscrew a jar of spaghetti sauce, maintains a firm grip on her vanity and her sense of humor.

Ready to chuck your life in the ‘burbs? Consider full-time glamping

It’s not everyone’s wish for their retirement, but a lot of Americans dream of touring the country full-time in an RV.

I know, crazy, right? Middle-aged folks spend years working like maniacs in order to buy more couches/paint/600-count sheets for their McMansions. But when they think of retirement, they want to travel instead of spending time mowing their perfectly manicured lawns.

Honestly, living full-time in an RV has a lot of appeal for a person tired of acquiring stuff and interested in cultivating experiences.

pacearrowNow, let me just state for the record: By “RV,” I don’t necessarily mean the 1983 Pace Arrow that my Beloved and I enjoyed for many happy months one winter (click here for what remains my favorite story about one of our Pace Arrow trip). That motor home was a great deal, but it was, well, a little old. And sort of cramped. And very, very harvest gold. I mean, it was pretty dependable for the most part, but then, my Beloved is pretty handy with a wrench, too. When I say “RV” in the context of “full-time RVing,” I mean those modern campers with slide-outs. And flat-screen TVs. And king-sized beds. It’s glamping (glamorous camping), not camping. You get the picture, right?

Full-time living in a modern RV is appealing because it forces you to decide what’s really important to carry with you (probably not those rarely worn evening dresses or those ratty towels you can’t bear to donate or toss). It gives you the freedom to clean only one bathroom. And it gives you the opportunity to foist the responsibility for most dinners on your grill-master mate.

Plus, because the RV has wheels, you can explore a new place every day (or week or month).

IMG_5665IMG_5664Author Anita S. Henehan explores this lifestyle in two books I picked up recently at the RV/Motor Home Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.: How to Run Away from Home After 50: A True RV Adventure and Tales from the Road: Adventures of Mid-Life Runaways.

Henehan’s books are a bit uneven. She’s got an amazing back story, and her writing has a nice “letters from home” style, but there’s not a lot of “how to” in How to Run Away from Home After 50. Her second book (Tales from the Road) is probably more useful for folks considering the full-time RV lifestyle because the second half is filled with details about all the can’t-miss sites a traveler, well, can’t miss. Interestingly, Henehan managed to write the books and keep her toe in her art business while traveling full-time. Talk about an inspiration!

In any case, Henehan succeeds in portraying full-time RVing as an appealing and doable lifestyle. Makes me wanna to go glamping!

Floater

I curse you, Collagen!

Yesterday’s post was titled “Flutter,” in which I promised to go with the flow more often. Today, in “Floater,” I shall unironically complain about the vitreous compartments in the back of my eyes that are not aging well. I demand my money back! (As if I paid for this ability to see the keyboard upon which I rant. If the human eye and the miracle of sight are not evidence of God, I don’t know what is.)

The eye doctor today proclaimed my eyes to be healthy, if a bit near-sighted. Those floaters about which I complained are irksome, not evidence of anything serious except my inevitable trudge to the grave. Floaters, it turns out, are caused by collagen fibers in the gel-like substance of my eye shrinking and becoming shred-like. At 50, the eye doctor said, that jelly in my eye is like a lava lamp, all lumpy and uneven. By 70, I can look forward to looking through an orb more like a snow globe.

Ah yes, the squiggly lines that fall gently through my vision as I view my computer screen now will inevitably disintegrate into a field of snow. How perfect for a native of Minnesota: Year-round blizzards.

The loss of collagen I lament everywhere else–my face, my thighs, my hands–is now draining lumpily out of my eyes. Sigh. Babies with their plump skin (and, apparently, eyes) don’t appreciate what they got when they got it.

What can I do but … go with the flow. The lumpy flow.

A way to keep track of time and a way to savor it

I bought a 2015 wall calendar today.

What’s up with that? It’s practically April!

I know, crazy, right?

Amazon was selling some of its 2015 calendars at full price (as ridiculous as shopping for a calendar three months after the year begins). But I found a discounted one I liked which had nice big numbers for each day (we’re as old as we’re slow around here). Besides being affordable and readable, it evokes thoughts of happy hour.

With images of wine.