Mist beyond the window screened shadows yet to come and I heard soft breathing of one love Air so cool so wet all very like touch of death A distant raven cried against the coming night and hushed the crickets chatter The wind was gone rain pooled in small but never bottom puddles The candle long since snuffed seemed to question, "Will Heaven be this still?" A thought whispered through my mind If only the world could keep this peace May 27, 1968 Dedicated to Mick Scarpelli aka Mick Scott (Herbert Francis Scarpelli) 8/19/1945 - 2/13/2017
It took less than thirty seconds to realize I was now a senior citizen. Not that I didn’t already know that my birthday had put me into that category. Renewing my driver’s license this August and looking at my new seven-year mug shot firmly drove that home.
Each visit to my doctor’s office requires the explanation that I’m not paying my bill with Medicare part D. My husband’s younger than me by several years, still working, and I’m covered by his employer’s medical insurance plan. The law states they can’t throw me out of their coverage because of age. One added benefit of having married a younger man. I’m more Miss Kitty at 100 than cougar.
Last summer I reunited with a Ohio cousin I hadn’t seen since I was eleven. We met at the house of a third cousin who hadn’t seen the Ohio one since she five or so. Our paternal grandmothers’ were very close sisters, but the families drifted apart sometime after my grandfather died in 1956. That would have been shortly after the three families had last visited.
While looking through the old photo’s we had each brought, stories exchanges, genetic similarities, and attempts to trace our ancestors, my long lost Ohio cousin looked at me and said I resembled my mother. That was the aching proof that my youth was gone forever. For the majority of my life, I’d resembled my father. Until he’d reached his late sixties, my father was tall, lean and physically fit with a youthful face younger than his years. When he did age, it seemed to happen overnight.
My mother already appeared to be old by the age of thirty. I only remember her laughing once during her lifetime and there are no photos of her smiling. Until now, the only part of me I inherited from her was her over-sized, Belgian-French nose, which is a direct genetic link to my material grandfather. I’ve since been told by distant cousins that the ‘nose’ did appear in other branches of the family, but in mine it only landed, like a piece of Mount Rushmore, in the middle of my face.
I grew up with dad’s sorta roundish baby face, plump lips (before they were stylish), and a body built along the lines of a couple of six foot long 2″x 4″s nailed together. I was also thin before that was fashionable. I guess I was years ahead of the curve, or the ‘curve’ was years ahead of fashionable me!
When I was in my thirties I was turned away from bars with an legitimate drivers license. In my mid-forties people were still asking what college was I going to. Applying for jobs (back in day when it was still required to put your age on your application), I would be turned down for lying about my age. I’ve had a couple of friends, one who was a few years younger than me, that were asked numerous time if they were my mother (ouch).
There’s something about aging that seems to hit innocently from the young. Mine was the first time the bag boy at the grocer called me mam. Possibly he was simply raised to have good manners, but I hadn’t been told in a couple of years, “no, you don’t look that old!”. Time was creeping up.
A few years ago I attended a photographers weekend getaway. It was the second year in a row I’d gone. The previous year I’d had a terrific time, lot’s of laughter, new friends to make, great photography. The second event seemed to drag on forever. Their was a lot less laughter, the weather sucked, people were not inclined to friendships, and the photographs were terrible.
One of the weekend organizers took candid shots of the breakaway groups during sessions and I saw myself in a couple of them. I was so shocked at how much I’d aged, how much time I’d spent trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I gave it all up. It would be the last time in my life I’d waste time trying to ‘look my best’. Since looking at those two photos I’ve only bothered to wear makeup once or twice a year. Now my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I’ve given up trying to battle gravity, genetics, and things that need fixing but aren’t in the budget.
Yesterday, a Tuesday, I drove north forty-five minutes to another town to shop for groceries. Our normal shopping town had a very nice, high quality, meat, fish market and deli. Unfortunately it closed a few weeks ago. The next town north supplied some of his products so it became the logical place to replace some of the lost products. One of the disadvantages of rural living, nothing is convenient.
Wearing very old, worn hiking boots, over-sized wool socks with the tops slouched down, black leggings and a hooked parka left over from the days I was 45 pounds heavier, I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. I’m currently in my Buddy Holly stage of life. Trying to find glasses that look good on my lopsided face is a zero return so I’ve opted for plain black frames that darken in bright light. Of course, they never lighten either, so I figure wrinkles and bags under my eyes are pretty well hidden most of time. I recently cut my own bangs, and I’ve cut them crooked. Trying to correct the problem made it worse. Oh well, at my age, what does it matter. I had to untangle my pony tale from the snap on the back collar of my coat so most likely it looked like half a dozen dogs have just come from greeting one another in the park.
My husband wants me to wear a sign pinned to my back while shopping that reads, ‘medicated for your own protection’. I tend to get frustrated with the people that park in the middle of narrow isles and ignore oncoming traffic. At least early on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t any children playing gotta have, gimme this, where did momma go, or the family of seven all shopping using one cart with separate check-outs in line. It actually was pretty simple. I actually laughed at the bellowing cow mooing over the store speakers in the product section as I entered. Why the cow moos in produce and not meats I’ll never understand. Is it related to manure, makes fertilizers, which grows healthy produce? Doubt it.
Shopping done and ready to check out I’m actually directed by a young man to a empty isle. I think this is a first for me. There’s even get a second person bagging my purchases. This is service. The cow is still mooing in produce. I’m telling the young man how pleased I’m am with my shopping experience and the wide variety of products they had available, that it will help with my love of Hungarian cooking. He explained his school trip to Austria last year. The first day they served his class Austrian food and he loved it. He was looking forward to experiencing more European cuisine. The second day he sat down to dinner and they were served chicken nuggets and french fries. The remainder of the class trip all they got to eat was American cafeteria meals. He was so disappointed. Probably the only trip he’ll make in his life and he’ll only have one memorable meal.
As my grocery bill totaled I noticed a credit popped up on the bottom of the screen. He tore off the receipt and handed it me. “Have a nice day,” I said to him and walked to my car. After placing the bags in the trunk I opened my wallet to look at the receipt and figure out what the credit was for. My regular grocery store states, “Amount saved today” – this read, “Senior Discount 5%”. OMG – I’d been caught in public, not even asked, blatantly exposed, the best days are behind me, I qualify without asking … I’m over the hill!
Wikipedia defines Senior citizen as: It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such as old person, old-age pensioner, or elderly as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect for this population group as “citizens” of society, of senior rank.
Instead of stopping when we could we went right on …
Flash back – I’m seventeen, trying to cut my hair like Mick Jagger’s. Dylan wails on my record player. I’m wearing white jeans tucked into black ten inch high mod boots and my mother hates me. Plum incense burns in my bedroom, and I’m drunk on Earl Grey Tea bought from the Crate and Barrel in on Wells Street in Chicago. It’s hard to cut hair with a dull paper shears while bobbing my head and not poke an eye out. I’m one of the last two virgins in Old Town, my friend Teri, being the other. I don’t know about her, but all the weed I’ve inhaled was second-hand. Half the time I thought dudes failed to use deodorant. I was dense, but it was the first place that accepted me and I kept going back.
I loved it. We’d sit on the floor in John Brown’s Leatherworks in Pipers Alley and listen to stories as he’d play guitar. My shoulder was next to Brian McGuinn, Roger’s brother. Man, I wanted a leather Byrd’s cape from John. Eventually I did buy one, but mine came from Marshall Fields, not Johns.
I didn’t make it to the Democratic riots at the Hilton Hotel although a friend borrowed my tambourine. I caught the news footage of him as he brought my beloved flower painted instrument over the head of a cop in the viewfinder of the CBS National News. Me and Teri, wound up on a documentary about leftist groups, Remember, Nixon was paranoid. They staged the entire thing. Producers went into the coffeehouse basement and brought up protest signs that predated us by several months, if not years, and asked up to pretend to paint them. They chose us because our hair read clean on the light meter. The crew admonished us not to look into the camera. Teri looked up, her boss caught it when it aired, and she got fired.
I never went to Woodstock, I went out and bought a horse instead and that left me flat broke. I still prefered the scent of fresh cut hay and horse sweat over live music and flower children
But I’d learned early about wiretapped telephones, FBI files, innocence, protest, and the friends you keep. The nicest people could be running at ninety miles an hour thinking no one can see them. Fifty years ago the government kept watch on who and what they wanted on their radar. Nothing’s changed much except the technology.