Category Archives: aging

No more apologies

Today Tom the “pond guy” showed up at 10 a.m. to put my backyard pond to bed for the winter. He emailed last week to say it was time. I emailed back and said yes, just let me know when to expect you. No response.

bathrobe

Oh, no! The Pond Guy!

The dogs went nuts when his little blue VW Beetle pulled into the drive and I, hair askew, still in my bathrobe, wafting morning coffee breath, sheepishly stepped outside to greet him. Fortunately, Tom seems oblivious to questionable grooming, possibly because his attire for pond-cleaning is casual/tramp – as one would expect for that messy job.

After getting him settled in, I showered and brushed my teeth while Tom and his assistant Maria tackled overgrown reeds and lily pads, and scraped down moss-covered rocks.

But I’m not often given the opportunity to clean up when unexpected guests show up. These days, getting caught in my morning attire happens more often than I care to admit.

You see, without conscious intent, I’ve turned into my father. I used to tease Dad about sitting around the house in his bathrobe until noon. After he retired, unless he had an early morning tee time, Bob would spend a couple hours reading the paper and working on the crossword puzzle every day. He’d follow that with calls to friends to set up future golf dates, or make lunch plans, or maybe discuss the progress and problems of renovations at church. Before “abluting,” which was Dad’s favorite term for taking a bird bath and shaving, he might also pause to read a chapter or two of a book he’d been engrossed in. Or sit at the computer to check on his investments, possibly followed by exchanging email jokes with his buddies in Florida.

At any rate, it wasn’t unusual to find him looking quite dapper in his light blue pinstriped cotton robe and slippers, sipping coffee and keeping himself busy until 11:30 or so. When my mother put lunch on the table at noon, Bob was always dressed for the day, smelling faintly of Bay Rum and Crest toothpaste. Lunch was usually a ham sandwich or bowl of soup, a handful of chips, and a cookie. I wish someone would make that lunch for me. Then I’d really be a chip off the old block.

I’ve discovered that this kind of morning routine suits me perfectly. I’m slightly embarrassed when people drop in unexpectedly, but I decided today that I’m not apologizing any more. Because I am a chubby woman, my face is relatively unlined and strangers tend to guess that I’m significantly younger than my 67 years. If it comes up, I like to tell people that the key to looking young is to stay fluffy.

Paul Hollywood 2

I hope Paul Hollywood never shows up at my door in the morning. But Paul, any other time would be JUST FINE.

I don’t mind being mistaken for being younger, but I can’t help imagining that these folks are wondering why I’m hanging around the house in my bathrobe. Shouldn’t she be at work? Not any more. Is she independently wealthy? No. Is she sick? Nope. Is she lazy? Yes. Maybe. No. Oh, shut up.

I hereby vow to stop making excuses for spending the morning in my robe. I’m retired! I can an even sleep in if I want to! I mean, I won’t, because I don’t, but I lovelovelove spending hours drinking my coffee with vanilla creamer. I love  reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer on my iPad, answering emails, catching up with Facebook, chatting on the phone . . . you get the picture. And why would a stranger who shows up at my door really care? I’m projecting dismay where there may be none, and well, so what?

And there you go. Fair warning. If you show up unexpectedly at my door before noon, it’s on you. I will definitely not look as cute as my dad did, but he was a bald guy whose fringe always looked perfect and his tall frame could make a nicely wrapped and tied bathrobe come off like resort wear.

Miss you, Dad. The only thing better than fiddling around all morning in my bathrobe would be having the chance to spend one of those mornings sharing the paper with you.

It’s okay to have a change of heart

Here’s the deal. I had what I thought was a great idea to keep me occupied in my retirement. I started my web page, Where My Girlfriends Go.  Take a look, if you haven’t visited. I’ll wait right here for you.

So, although I’m not actually retired yet, I thought I should get a plan in motion, rather than waste a minute of actual retirement time being bored.  Heaven forbid that I’d risk finding myself at loose ends, which I’ve always pictured as sitting forlornly on the floor contemplating a frayed rug.

What was I afraid of?

Was there a serious risk that I’d be looking for trouble if I had spare time? Take up smoking again and hang out on street corners with the dogs? Fall in with a gang of other bored retirees seeking thrills, like maybe dine-and-dash during the geriatric coffee hour at Panera or take turns distracting the stock boy while somebody swipes Glucosamine gel tabs from the shelves at Discount Drug Mart?

old people with coffee

Oh, yeah. It’s all fun and games at Panera until you break a hip trying to run to the car without paying the bill. They’ll only trace you back to your Panera Club frequent coffee-drinker-and-cinnamon-roll-eater card, anyway. (I’d like to credit the photographer but I “borrowed” this from Google Images where it appeared in some medical pamphlet and these people may actually be yucking it up over the joys of Viagra, for all I know.)

Without a plan, I’m thinking the worst thing that could happen to me is that I’ll hang around with the dogs in the house in my bathrobe for a few days (or weeks) until I decide that sucks and I want to do something else.

So I changed my mind. I decided, well, fuck that. I don’t need to have a plan. And if I don’t have the entire next glorious stage of my life mapped out by the time I actually retire next May or so – big deal.

I read recently on Facebook that a very successful woman I admire is leaving the publishing company she’s been with for years and is taking a long sabbatical to see what she wants to do next. Cindy obviously is far wiser than I am and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Step back and think about things for a while.

Huh. I like it.

I don’t know what I want to do next, either. I certainly want to keep writing. But do I want to drum up a following on “Where My Girlfriends Go” and write at least one story a week and post on the WMGG Facebook page regularly and maybe Tweet and put photos on Instagram and . . . ?

I don’t think so. It makes me a little tired just thinking about it. I don’t want to make that commitment. Or, at least I don’t want to make that commitment NOW. And that’s okay.

So, I just moved the photo banner-thing over here to my blog site. I figure sometimes I can write about things I do with my friends, but not exclusively. Or reliably. I do think my buddy Carol and I should check out more donut shops. I’ll tell you some stories about my trip to Italy with Sue, too. I just started working on a photo book – before I forget where in Italy I actually took half those pictures.

I don’t know what I’ll do with the WMGG Facebook page. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow. (And I mean “tomorrow” figuratively, not literally.)

And that’s it for now. I’m thinking sabbatical next year, guys. Just stop and smell the roses and think about what might be fun to do. Maybe learn about and plant roses? Nah. I don’t like dirt or bugs. Fortunately, the possibilities are endless. I’m not even going to rule out the possibility (dare I say, likelihood?) of scheduling a guilt-free period spent reading lots of books and wearing my bathrobe all day.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Channeling Bob

I’d like to think that if my dad was still alive, and if he could have gotten his friends involved, he would have spent every morning and many afternoons of his retirement years on Facebook.

It would have taken a leap of faith on his part, but knowing Bob, he could have convinced his buddies to join him online. Bob and the guys would have exchanged jokes and funny memes, shared news about those damned politicians and pro golf tournaments and home remedies for achy joints. Time-sucker that Facebook is, he would have been wearing his blue and white-striped cotton pajamas and robe (in summer; same PJ’s with his maroon fleece robe in colder weather) in front of the computer until mid-afternoon. He’d get cleaned up and head out to play golf with the old guys on Wednesdays, but otherwise – after breakfast and reading the paper – Bob would have been surfing the web, immersed in social media. In his pajamas.

IMG_5806

Dad and me, summer 2009.

That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. It’s almost 11:30 am and I am – you guessed it – still in my nightie and robe, screwing around on the computer. I would like to blame it on some genetic gift from Dad that makes me such a procrastinator when it comes to showering and dressing for the day. Bob called it his ablutions. Sometime before lunch he’d put down the crossword puzzle and announce that it was “time to ablute.” A member of a generation that doesn’t see the need for daily showers, his ablutions included what we called a bird bath:  filling the sink with water and using a soapy washcloth to scrub then rinse off the stinky bits. He’d also lather up for a close shave and always exited the bathroom fragrant with the Bay Rum aftershave he used, I believe, for his entire adult life. I wish I’d thought to dab a little on his cheeks before his viewing.

I finally was about to get out of this chair and get in the shower when I thought of Bob. I looked down at my own maroon chenille robe (oh, how I love my cuddly robe and a cool morning!) and felt guilty for not having officially started my day yet. I can’t help feeling that nothing counts until I’m clean and dressed.

Am I obligated to do things that “count” by a certain hour of the day, or for a prescribed number of hours in total? Because I know this for sure – Bob did not feel guilty for one minute about spending most mornings reading and putzing around in his pajamas. He worked hard all of his life to enjoy the luxury of free time. To spend his time as he wished.

It feels odd to realize that Dad was several years younger than I am now when he retired and gradually created his morning routine.

I’ve worked hard. Do I “deserve” it, too? I can’t quite make myself believe it. Maybe that’s because retirement for women is different. I’m not fully retired yet, but what woman ever hangs up her virtual apron and says she’s retiring from the endless chores related to managing her home? Maybe some married people share those chores, but I am alone. Oh – and happy to be, so please don’t think I’m moaning about it! Plus, no one is around to say, “Seriously? It’s almost noon and you’re not dressed yet?”

So on that note, I’ll get in the shower as soon as I hit “publish.” I’ll get dressed and take the dogs for a walk. I’ll choose something lingering on my To Do list – and do it.

Two weeks ago was the eight-year anniversary of my father’s death.

I miss you, Bob. Channeling you this morning has made me smile.

 

 

 

The oldest kid in church

Mother's Day 2016

Mom is still amused at lunch

My mother greeted me on Mother’s Day with a huge smile. “Thank you for the flowers,” she said.

I’d just arrived to take her to lunch and had my gift in hand. I had not sent her flowers. “What flowers, mom? I didn’t get you flowers this year.”

She pointed to a corsage on her lapel. “These flowers. They’re because of you.”

 

Mom seemed inordinately pleased by the corsage. She couldn’t stop giggling but finally paused to explain that she got it in church. In honor of Mother’s Day, the priest asked mothers to raise their hands so he could see who had been a mother the longest. By process of elimination, women lowered their hands as Father swept past age brackets of “kids” in their 40’s and 50’s. Anyone with a kid aged 60? 61? 62? Mom’s was the last hand waving with a child aged 65. That’s me.

with me

Mom and her oldest kid in 1951.

Mom was quick to point out that she was not necessarily the oldest MOTHER in church. She was just the mother of the oldest CHILD. Again, that’s me. Recognized as the oldest child at the 11:00 mass at St. Cyprian’s last Sunday.

My mother got as much mileage as she could out of that clump of flowers on her chest. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wore it to play bridge yesterday.

So here you go, Mom. This blog post is for you:

Congratulations on being the mother of the OLDEST KID,

From your loving, ancient daughter

My eyebrows and Donald Trump

A few years ago, my son took me aside and gently said, “Mom. You really should stop plucking your eyebrows.”

I said, “Chris. I haven’t plucked my eyebrows since the ninth grade.”

Had I known at 14 that experimenting with hair removal would result in the skimpy bits of hair left on my brow today, trust me; I would not have plucked them at all.

That’s why I was so reluctant to trim a wayward hair this week. Perched all alone on the downward curve above my right eye, that one renegade hair is all that remains in that section of eyebrow. It’s also still brown, which makes me value it even more. Some of the wilder ones have turned white and it’s hard to decide which is worse:  leaving the traitors that make my chosen hair color an obvious lie versus plucking one of the die-hards that hasn’t chosen to leave me permanently.

I think my son would say my eyebrows kind of look like these

I think my son would say my eyebrows kind of look like these

Usually I just trim the long hairs to make what’s left of my eyebrows look neater. Then I fill in the gaps with eyebrow pencil and call it a day.

But there was something about that single, long brown hair that inspired me to fashion a kind of brow comb over. For a few days I used a dab of hairspray to coax it into what would be the natural downward line of my brow, if hair actually still existed there. I carefully penciled in faux hairs to fill in the area around it. I even named it Donald, inspired as I was by King of Comb-Overs, Donald Trump.

How could anyone take a man seriously who thinks it's okay to wear his hair like this?

How could anyone take a man seriously who thinks it’s okay to wear his hair like this?

Then I thought, who am I kidding? Do I want people making fun of my right eyebrow, the way we make fun of Trump’s hair? Do I want to walk around pretending I don’t know and no one will notice that my right eyebrow just has one, long downward hair?

No. He may be delusional and incredibly odd, but I’m not. And I’m not rich enough or eccentric enough to pull it off.

I would just like to know who thought it would be amusing in my old age to thin out my eyebrows and reinstate those hairs in random spots on my chin and neck. Oh, and seriously impair my vision so I can no longer see the new hairs without heavy duty corrective lenses, a very strong magnifying mirror and natural sunlight illuminating my neck just so.

Between the existence of unwanted feminine chin hairs and Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, I think we can be pretty sure God has a quirky sense of humor.