Category Archives: aging

>Where the hell did I put that?!

>I am of an age when one begins to forget. I am not old, I know that, so don’t go complimenting me for all I do and achieve, it is not about that. This is reality. People forget, and the more you do and whisk through, the greater the chance of moving on automatic pilot. And that means losing things. This infuriates me and turns me into a raging harridan. Not pretty.

Then my son, daughter, or husband has to try and locate things, calm me down and stop me from railing and ranting that I am losing my mind. Oh, so not pretty. So this morning I started a notebook marked:


Simple. I clean, I decorate for the season, I file things without thinking so that surfaces are clear and I can write, but then I have done it all in a haze of, “I must find calm, and create. . . must find clarity.”

And then weeks, hours or months pass and I recall the gesture and desire, but not the locale. Hence this new notebook idea.

Last summer when I rented the house, I put some fragile things away, there were three hand-made, lemon nesting bowls. I recalled carefully placing them somewhere and then only one month later, they were gone gone and I tore the house apart. Finally Zachary found them in the bottom drawer in a rarely used hall credenza. So this year as I am cleaning, to supposedly write, but really to think about decorating for the winter holidays, I took them back to the credenza, but I took out the notebook and wrote it down. I also noted where I squirreled away a few hundred bucks as I keep losing and finding that. The losing is horrible, but every re-find in funny and exciting.

It scares me–this loss of vigor in my brain and body, although my soul seems pretty much enlivened by age, the other faculties are dimmed. And so I am hopeful this notebook will get me in good habits before I am as wacky as my late-eighties friend, Beati, to whom I gave a notebook. But as she says, “I forget to write in it, then I forget where I put it.” So I started today to note the lemon bowls and tiny envelope of money. I promise to write down after the holiday where decorations have landed so we don’t have to go on an annual scavenger hunt to find the wreaths upstairs and the lights under the coats in my son’s closet.

As long as I believe that every age has a lesson, I can keep forging ahead. Now where did I put my boots, because I need to get out into the sunshine and air out my brain and flex my old legs?


>Does anyone mend anymore?

I have a note on my refrigerator that says only: MEND

I know that it means I have to stitch up the tear in the old cashmere blanket before it bisects and I have to use the sewing machine. I guess that’s where the Ben Franklin aphorism, “A stitch in time, saves nine” emanates. I may now need more than 30 to staunch this rip.

And I have a nightie that is unseemly due to missing buttons, but I don’t have kids home now, so sometimes I just wear it gaping. But I know it needs buttons. There is a quilt cover with a safety pin that upbraids me with my laziness because I have not replaced the buttons. My husband has a sweater he wears on weekends dotted with moth holes. I know how to darn, and sew, mend and close up seams, but does anyone know these things now who is not over 50?

My daughter is about to be 24 and is living downtown with us in the loft she grew up in while her apartment is sublet so she can do an unpaid internship working on a film about Hunger in America. (How can you not help support a kid doing that kind of work?) She said the other day, “I really need to sew buttons on this skirt.” I know she means, I really need you, mama, to sew these buttons on. But instead I said, “We need to plan a mending night where we take out all the ratty stuff and renovate it so it closes, and looks better.” But it seemed so old fashioned.

Maybe that is where we need to go as a country and as a family.

We need to return to mending our fences, our sweaters, our nighties and our relationship with the world.

Maybe our finances need some old fashioned savings and a moratorium on purchases in favor of rummaging through closets and cleaning out drawers to see what treasures lurk in those dark untapped places.

I started saving every five-dollar bill that came into my hands at the beginning of the summer and I now have nearly 500 dollars, that’s a hundred crumpled fives stuffed into a big jar. I was going to start a savings account, wait until I got a thousand dollars and then buy a CD, but I think I may use what I saved to give us a little bit of a Christmas. Still it was a fun exercise to see that little bits do add up.

I like the idea of mending. Mending a fragile friendship, mending a crumbling stonewall that just needs the tumbling pile to be reorganized. I love mending the sweaters, closing holes and crocheting a new edge to the fraying cuffs. It makes me feel as if I saved something and I might have a little bit of value left in me.

Perhaps we can introduce mending nights as the new thing across America. Everyone brings a small project to the table: fixing broken table legs or that gaping nightie. I don’t want to be the only one doing this, but I bet with the economy in continued free fall, the virtue in mending may begin to seem mighty again.

>58 in 08

>Okay, disorganized, but here goes. It’s my birthday and raining. I remember that for 20 years it rained every year on my birthday. Then I met this man, my love, to whom I am now married, and it stopped raining. So now when it occasionally rains, that is fine by me.

A great good friend Susan Burks jetted in from SF on her way to trek in Morocco and my lovely big son, all lank and sleepy eyes, trained in from the foothills of the Adirondacks and college. Susan is off at tea and Henry has been sleeping happily in his childhood bed, on a soft rainy day. He will eat copious amounts of fancy cheese bought by my love and his dad before he jaunts off to the theater with Susan to see the show.

Zac is staying home to secretly, like an elf, bake a giant birthday cake, although I can see all the fixin’s on the table arrayed like gifts themselves. And my daughter called from the south of France and we got to gab at length this morning while Zac brought me a strong dark cup of excellent coffee to wake me up.

Yesterday was a horrible though. I had to do the battery of tests for the potential “Real Job” and they were math and crazy spelling where you had to find the opposite, the antonym, of the word presented and they gave you the word jumbled, and then you had to pick the final letter in the word. So for a dyslexic it was:
Reordering letters
And spelling finding the last letter

It was awful, and they had wanted me to do it in a chartreuse room with no natural light and no windows or air on a PC computer I had never used before and–lo and behold–I had a major panic attack. My therapist friend says this had happened to me because of PST from 9/11. Perfect that it happens while I am mounting this opera that I hope provides some assuagement from all the panic. But in that little dark, airless room, boy did I get super scared with my heart threatening to leap from my body.

I did finally get permission to take the computer to my house to do the test. Endless personality questions.

I have never had any hair on my head?
I can look at rivers for hours?
Wait, do I have hours or am I being a slacker?

Many of the questions begin with
I ALWAYS and really, is there anything much that one can say never or always to other than for most of us at some point we have had hair on our heads.

I often feel as if I am being watched.
I know what others are thinking before they say anything.

Kind of an acid test for aliens.

But the test is over and now on Monday I have to speak to a shrink via phone from LA. As the therapist friend said, “You can just scream on Ninth Street in Manhattan and a shrink will step out the door.” But they had to hire one to talk by phone.

But I divert, this should be about me having the opportunity to celebrate my 58th birthday with a show I conceived, wrote, directed and produced, thank god I found someone to write the music, a great collaboration. I am overjoyed at the timing and the marvelous, magical friends I have been seeing at the shows.

It makes me see how rich my life is, how varied, and how lucky I am.

>What was your favorite age?

>My husband, my lovely, sweet, generous husband’s mother is sinking into the miasma of Alzheimer’s and it is unraveling him.

I watched my father dance around the edges of dementia as he limped into his nineties, but he did continue to take in new information and even upbraid me with his Irish rancor when I repeated myself after he had processed and owned the new facts. But Nana is losing all sense of who she was, who her kids are, if she even has kids. She questions why she is living in this house, the home she lived in with her husband and seven kids for nearly 50 years.

Nana has settled herself in her late teens and early twenties. When she looks at old photographs of herself and her not yet husband, and all their friends at parties, visiting Atlantic City from Washington D.C. and she can tell you all their names, where she bought the fabulous hat and what they ate for dinner at the crab shack. But she often doesn’t know my husband, can’t recall that he is married and has two kids; and that makes him sad.

I watched my mother, near the end of her life, not really altered by Alzheimer’s, but shot up on morphine, and anti-depressants to get her through her life after a stroke. She was very interested in going to the place where her parents and her cousin lived. Both my mother and her cousin Robert were only children and they were raised more as siblings than just cousins. My mom adored Robert, a few years older than she, and there are photos of her trialing after him with a look of adoration spread across her grimy little face. Robert was a Navel pilot, shot down over Tokyo Bay and never found. My mother kept a picture of him, all gap toothed grin, smiling out. As she got near the end of her life she was in her late twenties and waiting to go to a party where Robert and her long-dead parents would be in attendance. Kind of a wonderful notion. For my mother.

But tough for those who don’t seem to make it into your conscientiousness. It sometimes made me feel as if I was diminished in her eyes. Why didn’t she want to return to the time when I was little or, graduating from school, or giving her grandkids?

It made me wonder, into what time would I retreat? Young mother with baby children, carefree romps in fields as a child myself, producing plays, gardening. I can’t predict what time will most captivate me. And as I think about that notion, I try to continue to make incredible memories, so when the time comes to revisit whatever moments my inner projector chooses; I will have a giant bank from which to choose.

I am content that Nana has a place to retreat when times are tough; but I am sorry my husband feels so sad when he sees her and has to confront the realization that he and his brothers and sisters are often not a part of the place where Nana has gone.

Life and old age are not for the faint of heart.

>The Eyes Have It or Weepy VS Old

>No, it is not some new weird, reality show where people wrestle… it is just the reality of my life as a mid-life mom, woman, worker, wending my way through life.

I ride my bike everywhere, you know that right? Well, I do and today it is beautiful, gorgeous enough for me to feel as if perhaps the universe is paying me back for all the lousy, rainy, cold days I slogged to and from work and meetings on my trusty three-speed. Today puts money in the weather bank and redeems the North East for the crazed days past.

So yes, of course, I am riding my bike back and forth to meetings today in the sunshine and wind. And I stopped to get my sunglasses adjusted, because it looks as if the season is upon us. As I walk in the shop my eyes are streaming tears. I had been told that light eyes, mine are like an Alaskan Husky, clear blue off-set by my no-longer “real” dark brown hair. (OK, to dye or not to dye is most definitely another post) But this is about eyes. The eye doc comes over and I proffer my good old Persol glasses apologizing for my weepiness and add, “ have always been told that light eyes are more sensitive to light and wind, and I am on a bike.”

“Oh no, that’s not the reason; it’s just because they are old eyes.” I swear he said that. Who would make that up? OLD EYES.

Well, I mumbled and made some snappy rejoinder. . . maybe, but I was stunned. My eyes were a thing I though might hold out and still be glorious until I hopped off the twig–a phrase my 86-year-old friend Beati uses when referring to her last mortal moment. I thought my skin would get the way it does–spotty and wrinkly–and there would be more floppy skin surrounding the eyes, but the blue of a great Carolina sky would hold me strong. They wouldn’t be clouded in a flood of weepy.

Now when I enter a store or go to a meeting I will be embarrassed about my watery eyes. I know they have always been runnier than most and I am challenging myself today to think: Are they different from 20 years ago water-wise?

I can’t recall. I seem often to occupy the moment firmly, both a good and bad thing. Here is what I want to know. Was there a reason for this eye doc to call my orbs old? And couldn’t we all do with a little more finesse when it comes to talking about other people . . . I mean especially right in front of them. I’m off to buy a pack of tissues to stuff in my bag to hide the tears.