I ran from the label for a long time but now I own it.
I’m a senior, an older adult. I stop at elderly, though, because it conjures for me the memory of my great grandmother sitting in my grandmother’s upstairs bedroom, prim in a lace nightgown and complaining constantly lest she be forgotten up there with the old photographs and clothes from the twenties. I am that old that I have relatives I knew, relatives I had conversations with, people who were figures in my life, who were born in the century before last.
So I ran from reality for a long time. I denied any inference of old age despite my face and demeanor throwing off clues like confetti thrown by a drunk person on New Year’s Eve. What confetti? I would ask. I don’t see any confetti.
Today I picked up my 10-year old granddaughter from school and we went to a fast food place for a snack. Even now, in this piece talking about my deep acceptance of aging, I feel compelled to say that I worked most of the day writing a report for a client. I’m still on that thin slice of denial, the one that floats around unmoored, a let go rowboat with no oars.
“Nana. You know what’s good about being an elder?” She unpacked her sandwich.
“A lot of things, like knowing a lot, being wise.” I wanted to add having decent money which is something I didn’t have when I was young.
“Getting the discount!” She was right. The cashier had taken 33 cents off my bill.
I leaned in to hear her as she asked me questions. She asked about my favorite food and my favorite place to eat. It seemed like she’d had instruction that day in being a good conversationalist.
She asked me to tell her the creepiest thing that had ever happened to me. I lied and said nothing creepy had ever happened to me.
“So what are you afraid of?”
“Getting a flat tire.”
“That’s what you’re afraid of? A flat tire?”
I expounded on that, telling her that, in addition to my fear of flats, sometimes in the summer when I drive my convertible on the freeway and the top is down and I have to pass a semi-truck, I sometimes get scared. It’s at that middle moment when I pass and look to the right and I can see where my car, and me, might slide right under the truck to the other side. Not unscathed, though. The scenario never includes accomplishing such a feat unscathed. But I didn’t go into that. It seemed unnecessarily detailed.
“If you’re asking me if I’m scared of things, like ghosts or spirits or monsters, I’m not. I’m not afraid of anything.”
I said that to a child. And I meant it. Although I didn’t know I meant it until I said it. I sat there and let it soak into me. It didn’t mean that terrible things wouldn’t happen to me. Looking ahead, at my age, it is clear that something will have to give at some point. Illness, disability, death, grief, loneliness – the older adult’s back closet is filled with dreadful black clothes. But I don’t live in that closet full of eventual catastrophes. I live right here, right now and I’m not afraid of anything.
We left the fast food place and went to the printers to pick up a banner for a group I started with several other seniors. We’re having our first protest demonstration on Wednesday in front of Milwaukee’s Federal Building and it was my job to have the banner printed. We unfurled it on the front porch so I could take a picture to post on Facebook. My granddaughter’s black high tops are peeking out at the bottom.
I love that the banner is red. And that the printer gave me a discount.
The Daily Post: Label