I find myself saying something these days that I used to hear my grandmother say, when she was probably younger than I am now, but I thought she was surely older than Methuselah. Those pearls of wisdom? "Old age is not for sissies." Usually said after she grimaced with a new pain in a hip or her back or just a twinge of age tweaking some body part that was best left untweaked. Right on, grandma! Just being an adult is bad enough, but when you add the insult of advanced age to the injury of being an adult, things get downright messy.
Adulthood is crowded and loud, dense with confusion and pain from the daily dramas that assault you at every turn. You're faced with moronic rules that have little if anything to do with the attainment of anything even remotely resembling the happiness you were always sure you'd have back when you were a teenager dreaming of the time when you be in that magical land of "on your own." I've been there. I've lived there. I bought the lawn mower for it. It's not all that and only half a bag of chips.
The stench of unfulfilled dreams rotting in the recesses of your mind sometimes seems overwhelming and not even the biggest bottle of Febreeze or Calgon will take it away. The heart that you once offered so casually to those that put a sparkle in your eye is now scarred by time. Perhaps by the shards of innocence that were hurtled against it at some point that now you can barely recall, but is always there to tug at your memory when you hear a particular piece of music or see some inconsequential thing that immediately has great importance...but you're not sure why. There's never enough money, no matter how much you have or how hard you work. Everyone you love dies, is sick, or decides they don't love you any more. The ones that are left are so busy that they might as well be dead for all the good their existence does you. The knees start to go and you have to be careful how you step for fear of breaking a hip.
The hands you used to hold, the ones that got you through a night filled with bad dreams, are either not there, or are so frail that you fear breaking them if you squeeze them in your pain or panic. You still dream, but it's more remembering the past than the dreams you used to have of secret gardens, hidden doorways, mossy pathways to a hidden tryst or standing at the top of a mountain knowing you have once and for all "made it."
There are no bonfires with marshamallows on twigs, no candlelight flickering in a breeze lighting up a lover's face, no Mason jars full of fireflies waiting to be released to dance with their cousins. Sure you could still do those things, if you wanted to, but it just takes so much energy. And, the change in weather has your arthritis kicking up. And besides, there's an old Magnum PI you wanted to catch tonight.
No, being old isn't for sissies. Even though life has made me tougher now than I've ever been in my life. I have lived through things I was sure would kill me. I've done things that should have. But I'm still standing. I've stared at demons that I've feared since I was a young child. The only fear I have left is that of dying alone. And that fear is loud and consistent in my brain, reminding me that the ferryman is waiting to take me to that other shore, sooner rather than later. I've walked a lot of paths with someone I loved. I've walked a lot of hard paths alone. I like together better. I don't like living alone. I'm fairly certain that dying alone would be infinitely easier. Because you'd know there is an end. I wish I knew now that living alone was going to come to an end.
I sit in the darkness of my back porch and I watch the fireflies flitting about and I think of those halcyon days when summer was infinite and Christmas took forever to get here. Birthdays were cause for celebration and even just reaching the half-year mark was worth cheering over. And I wonder at exactly what point I became "an old woman." I never saw it coming. I still don't see it, unless I look in the mirror. On the inside, I'm still young. And I still believe in dreams, even though adulthood has tried its best to crush them out of me. I keep praying for someone who will look at me and see the dreams instead of the grey hair and sagging skin. Someone who will stand beside me as we dream dreams together of whatever future is left and fight the demons of old age together. Old age ain't for sissies, especially when you're fighting that one last demon.
I want a hand to hold as I slip away.
THAT'S MY STORY
I've never been normal. I've never tried to be. I can't imagine anything more boring.
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