By Kirby Vickery from the April 2012 Edition
“How old are you?” She asked one evening while we were standing in a line waiting to purchase our tickets to a movie.
The question opened a variety of avenues from which I could pick from and then travel. I could get smart, or cute, or just be snide. I could ignore the question or I could smile and hold up some fingers, stomp my little hoofer foot, or just answer the question before I forgot what it was. She knew better than I did how old I am because I don’t really care that much to try to remember. Besides that, we have a bunch of people that tell us every year anyway, our children, their children, and those with whom we work, and play. All these people delight in repeating our new age every year while we cringe while wishing for a pistol or a dull knife to put a sudden stop to all that drivel. Discretion being the better part of valor, I figured I’d best answer the question with complete honesty.
“Well, this week I’m either 55 or 66.” I answered, completely dead pan. “Why do you ask?” . . . as if I didn’t know.
“At this theater, if you’re fifty-six, you get the SENIOR DISCOUNT.” She said with a great flourish of her arms which added depth, drama and much feeling. “At fifty-five you don’t,” came unbidden with a forefinger held up in admonishment.
“How much is the discount?” I asked loudly making sure the people around us wouldn’t have to bend over very far to find out where this conversation was going.
“We get ten percent off at this theater. At the Ajax, the SENIOR DISCOUNT is fifteen percent.” She answered equally loud, to the smiles of those around us.
“Wow!” I exclaimed while remembering that this is one of the theaters I don’t like to go to in the first place, and this SENIOR DISCOUNT is one of the reasons why. “That’s really great! Shoot, I ought to buy two tickets and get a double savings of a whole seventy cents just for me.” She really had no idea what the discount was at the other theater, but was hoping someone inside the booth would hear and up the anti. It’s a game we play and sometimes it works; not often, but sometimes. When we first got married she wouldn’t even participate. So I’ve corrupted her. But, that’s what she gets for taking me to these movie theaters that condescendingly degrade the growing older set.
Now that I’m on the cusp of old age, I’ve discovered that growing older is not as easy as it appears. Problems develop on all sorts of different levels which are always unexpected. Different people identify different parts of a person that start to unravel first. Some say that it’s the mind. Bill Cosby poked a lot of fun at the befuddlement of his mind as he turned fifty in one of his books but most believe it’s in the physical parts. Phyllis Diller lamented that there are some tell-tale physical signs of advancing age: “Friends talk louder to you.” “You get winded gumming a mint.” and “You are suddenly receiving more ‘get well’ cards than junk mail”. My hero’s in life are stand-up comedians because theirs’ is the only group that is blatantly honest when speaking publicly. I suppose that I will have to contend with a failing body, figuring out the requirements for my retirement income (should I live that long), a failing mind (Wut?), and a slightly growing negative attitude for those who aren’t or don’t have too. Gasp!
For me, now that I have more memories than time remaining to create new ones, things seem to crowd up on me. It feels almost as if I’m not going to be around long enough to do all that I want to do. A modern philosopher, Nancy S. Jecker, states: “There are three boxes of life (Education, work, and retirement)”. This statement echoes that of Euripides: “Whoso [sic] neglects learning in his youth loses the past and is dead for the future”. There are issues of life that are encountered while it runs. Issues dealing with the quality of life become paramount especially in America where we preach our freedom to ourselves and all the other peoples of the world (That’s something else I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older: Most Anglos are proud, arrogant and very loud about it). Love, health, peace of mind, and the basic enjoyments of life are all just as important as the means by which people use to obtain them. So is respect.
Our governing society thinks they are finally getting a handle on health benefits for the old (Ahem: Aging). Sadly, it depends on your government and who’s running it. They (and you never know who they really are) are providing the basic enjoyments of life to us older growing types in the form of parks, old age centers, government lobbyist, modeling clay, art and weaving studio’s social clubs, nursing homes, adequate numbers of boy scouts to help us get across busy streets even though we may have been standing on the street corner looking for the keys to the car that we had dropped, etc.
“Oh look, Marge! A couple of gray hairs (or blue depending on the speaking generation) are taking advantage of their discount. Isn’t that cute?” AAARRRgghh!!
My mother is 88, and looks like what we would call an elderly person. She is as sharp as a tack. She told me that her IQ went down several points with each gray hair she sprouted and with each line she developed on her face. Having been a real estate broker specializing in commercial properties in four states she can still calculate a mortgage and closing costs faster than most computers. She told me she just wanted to scream when her real estate agent started explaining to her what a mortgage was when she recently moved into her new condo (It wasn’t in Manzanillo). That’s tantamount to saying that a beautiful young lady looses intelligence every time she takes her glasses off. (I wonder if that’s really true.)
In this aspect, we, the growing older set loose our individualism as we meld into a gray and wrinkled homogenous soup. I’ve decided the cure for old age is a lot of Botox, a hair coloring job and a double dose of pain meds after your pablum. Hmmmmm!