Old age is sometimes referred to as a “Second Childhood.” Perhaps the thought is that we become carefree again as we conveniently forget our responsibilities. Unfortunately, it may also mean that once again, we are dependent on others for our care. Some of us will be forced to relinquish control of such simple tasks as dressing, eating, or going to the toilet. I think that’s what troubles me most as I age–that loss of control.
Of course, we can look to our parents and grandparents for examples of the paths our aging may take. My two grandmothers lived well into their 90s, although they’d lost most of their marbles by that time. My mom died at 79 of what I consider to be a broken heart, having watched and cared for my dad as he suffered an unknowable number of mini-strokes in the two years leading up to his death at 82. Nonetheless, we can’t see the particular road that lies ahead for us.
So I thought I’d share these notes, just in case I end up trapped inside an uncooperative mind and body.
When I visited an elderly friend in a nursing home after an accident, she didn’t have her teeth in. Imagine how demoralizing that would be. Moreover, she had no one to look after her and remind staff what she needed. So she was stuck. Toothless. While I don’t wear dentures (yet), you never know. So please, someone, bring me my teeth!
And please, DO NOT put my hair in a ponytail or pin it back with those childish plastic barrettes. I haven’t worn a ponytail since my twenties and for good reason. My thin, wispy hair makes for a ridiculous ponytail with the diameter of a pencil. Cut it short. Judi Dench short. Let it (finally) go grey, fine. But please, no ponytail, no barrettes.
Before you judge me for my vanity, let me say that my lovely sister-in-law wants someone to please (please, please…) remember to pencil in her eyebrows. Perhaps she’ll have them tattooed on before she forgets.
And if I’m confused or anxious, don’t give me drugs. Give me crayons. This simple remedy occurred to me a couple of years ago, while lying on the floor coloring and eating graham crackers with my then toddler granddaughter. I noticed how happy I felt. Contented, you know? Just a lazy, lovely activity with something and someone sweet. My mother enjoyed coloring too, and would often let housework go undone to spend a morning doodling away with me. Graham crackers and milk just add to the blissful experience. Any coloring book will do. Dora, Disney princesses, dinosaurs, I won’t care.
I want to believe that somewhere deep inside, a little nugget of my five-year-old self will still exist, remember, and calm right down.
So if you visit me at Happy Acres, I hope you bring me crayons and graham crackers. And please, make it the big boxes. I like to share.