I say it – 60 years old – and think to myself, uh, no that's not me. That is not who I am. Age doesn't describe the inner me. I am ageless in my mind – and you ask my two sons and they agree. I'm playful and goofy and pensive and romantic and introspective and soul searching. Has nothing to do with age.
Several years ago, my coworkers started a tradition of "60 presents for the 60th birthday." Little things. So for the past five days I have received 10-12 little presents every day – books, cards, plants, candles, soaps, energy drinks (which seems to draw every single person and they all want to try it). Does an energy drink counter the effects of just plain being old? Inquiring minds want to know. It says it has no caffeine and no sugar. So, if you come to my cubicle and I'm not there, look up – I may be on the ceiling, having sampled some of my energy drink supply, called "Orange Explosion." If that doesn't work, I have several latte gift cards so I can get my double caffeine, triple shot chocolate, Grande latte. Fat, hot, and a hell of a lot.
How do I feel about 60? I didn't notice a big drop in brain cells, so I think the "senior moments" are still in the future. Maybe if I keep working, I'll keep my brain active, and I won't have those moments. I'm playing Sodoku frequently over the last year because I have heard that it improves the mind. However, it hasn't improved my balancing-the-checkbook skills, at all. Instead of a savings account, I have a slush fund in my checking account, to account for my not accounting my account.
Age is relative I suppose. I remember when my grandmother turned 95 years old, still living on her own. Her son-in-law asked, er rather shouted to her good ear, "So, how do you feel today?" to which she replied, louder just for the heck of it, "I'm 95 years old. How the hell do you think I feel!" When you are 95 years old, you can be cantankerous and ornery just for grins and giggles and nobody will fault you. When you're 60 and act like that, well, you're just being a brat and a pill.
So here I am – 60 years old. Am I better? Older? Wiser? I like to think wiser, finally, after many false starts. I'm an all-around better person, through time and through events and experiences. I'm just not older. I'm definitely not elderly – although were I to trip and fall in the street and a reporter happened by (and I'm only a block away from the S-R building), the article in the paper would read "Elderly Woman Breaks Hip on Riverside and Monroe; Traffic tied up for hours trying to get her, screaming and clawing, into ambulance for ride to nursing home."
Something went really bad when I went in to renew my license on Saturday. It’s the most awful picture I have ever seen. It’s a mug shot. It’s a mug shot of a seasoned criminal. I can’t show this in public! What am I going to say to whoever looks at it?
O, yeah, that was one hell of a hangover. (Even though I spent the night before watching old chick movies.)
That? That picture? Oh, it’s evidence for my malpractice suit on Botox injections gone horribly wrong.
What? No, oh no, that’s not me. That’s someone who stole my identity and tried to phony up a picture to look like me. Despicable job.
That really is a mug shot of me trying to steal Dentyne gum from the neighbor store.
I can explain that. Some really old, short, fat lady with no neck invaded my body. And I want it back.
ARRRRGH! I’m stuck with this really awful picture for FIVE years. And the truly horrible irony of all of this is that I had the chance to renew online and keep my really great looking picture for another five years but I kept having trouble with my credit card billing address because I have moved but haven’t really moved and I can’t make up my mind whether to make Mechanic Man’s address MY address or to keep my real address as a place to temporarily go to on lunch hours and weekends. Now I have this truly ugly picture following me around every single solitary second of my life. For five years!
Obviously, the Department of Licensing did not get my memo on 60 reasons to be excited to be 60. They must have received one that said "there is only one reason for this person to look like an old worn boot, because she is ELDERLY, OLD, WRINKLED, and, well, REALLY OLD."
New Year’s Resolutions have nothing on the resolution I am making as a result of having my driver’s license renewed. Oh no. Now I am passionately and resolutely determined to change my identity. I’m going to lose 40 pounds and I’m going to join a gym and I’m going to get massages every other day and I’m going to tape my face up and back and go back in and have the damned picture retaken. Again and again and again until it looks like ME.
As I got to the Monroe Street Bridge I noticed a man leaning on the cement banister, looking out over the water. I'm always aware of people when I'm walking. I try to assess them and make up a story about them. This one though was different. He was older than me, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. My first thought was, where's his coat – it's going to rain and it's cold still for early April.
I got closer and just wanted to get past this guy. I was chanting in my head "don't turn around, don't turn around, don't turn around." I was just inches past him when he said "Hey lady." I planned on ignoring him and I planned to keep on going, but there was something about the tone. I stopped and looked back. He looked at me, soft sad brown eyes.
"Yes?" I hesitantly asked.
"Help me. I'm going to jump."
There's dead silence; I can barely hear the river below; I don't notice it has started to rain.
"What?" I ask – surely I didn't hear him right.
I pointed my finger at him and I think I only said "STAY", not anything else. In my head I was shouting, "You stay right there and don't you move one muscle!"
I ran up the walk to the first building at the edge of the bridge. Closed! I ran to the next building. Closed! What's with all these closed buildings? I don't have time for this! I went to the next building and couldn't get the door open. I don't know why. My brain stopped working and I was a blithering idiot. I finally noticed a phone booth right next to me and miracle of miracles I even had money on me, in my pocket. I dialed 911 and told them my story. The dispatcher questioned me with "How do you know he's going to jump?" "He just told me!" I yelled back. I hung up in despair and my mind is screaming "O my God O my God O my God"
I ran back down the sidewalk, the man still standing there, O thank God, leaning over the edge. Just then a police car came down the road, the absolutely only car for three blocks! Two officers gently approached the man and lifted his hands off the edge of the cement wall and carefully guided him back to their car. The three of them made one glance at me and then drove away.
And there I stood with my cheery sunny umbrella while it rained in earnest now, pouring tears from Heaven.
Three weeks later, on my birthday in fact, I was reading the paper and I got to the ad section, which I never read, and it just caught my eye, a little ad:
"To the lady with the yellow umbrella. You saved my life. Thank you."
- I don’t look it – see me next year
- I am healthy (mostly)
- I am content
- I am mature (something I am extremely grateful for – no more hot emotions, no more being jealous or petty; just nice calm maturity)
- However, I can be cranky if I want to. I'm OLD.
- I love the person in the mirror that looks back at me.
- I laugh at myself way too much. And that’s perfectly fine.
- I am hardly ever sad.
- I have the bone density of a 30-year-old, so my doc tells me
- I am mother of two great sons that I don’t have to nag after
- I have dear close friends that hold secrets, tell jokes, and care deeply
- I laugh and laugh and laugh
- I’m alive
- I feel great
- I am comfortable in my skin
- I have become a sensitive, compassionate woman
- I have become an example to follow
- I’m a great mother-in-law and the envy of all my daughter-in-law’s friends who don’t have me as their mother-in-law
- I have a beautiful singing voice, especially in the shower
- I am 1/3 of the way through my list
- I look back at some of the things I write and think, boy, that was really good!
- I am passionate about attitude and living, truly living!
- I am a good listener and confidante.
- Not to worry when you tell me a secret; I can honestly say I have forgotten it by the next day
- I dance when I clean the house, usually to Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell.”
- The ocean
- I can still climb lighthouses
- I am a pretty good photographer
- I might retire in five years; maybe not; maybe work fulfills me still
- I’m good with computers
- Babies – I look forward to being a very young in spirit Grandmother in my 60s
- All-you-can-eat buffet places that give senior discounts to 60 and older. I can eat those 80-year-olds under the table.
- I can skip exercising (well, occasionally) and blame it on "old age."
- I get to take naps!
- I can be weird and eccentric and everyone will love me anyway
- My eyesight is still 20-20
- I actually wasn't born yesterday
- 2/3 through my list
- I am wise and make less mistakes
- When I make mistakes I just write them off as senior moments
- Cats love me (they see an easy mark)
- I'm still active and in more ways than one
- You are only as old as you feel – and sometimes I feel like I'm twelve.
- Some days I feel like I'm 100.
- I have God in my heart; God walks with me all day long
- I have a great sense of humor
- Other people laughing is contagious; I surround myself with laughing people
- I am introspective and engage in lots of soul searching and generally find good things in my soul
- A former boss told my current boss to hire me because I was gentle and kind; I really like being thought of as gentle and kind
- I have my teeth; and I floss
- I sleep very well
- I have no regrets
- I have at least 60 friends!
- 20 of my 60 friends are my very best friends forever VBFF!
- Today is the first day of my life, and I get to start all over again with a fresh slate; and it is the last day of my life and I get to fill it up with all kinds of adventures and experiences and memories
- I can still swing to the top of the bar with my feet high and my head back
- Wow! I'm sixty years old! Can you believe it???
- Like, passing a gradeschool during recess and listening to dozens of children laughing;
- Watching the neighbor teen "race" with his little short-legged terrier running like it meant his life, the little dog's tail wiggling so much that he zigzagged as he ran, stopping now and then to smile at his master and let the teen catch up;
- Sitting at a light and hearing loud cheering from the car next door with its window down and realizing the guy by himself is singing at the top of his lungs to the radio, his head thrown back with glee;
- Babies being strolled by on the first spring day;
- Tulips and crocuses have exploded out of the hard wintered soil;
- Putting my coat back in the closet, finally;
- Spring cleaning! Leaving the windows and doors open, sending the old stale air out and letting the fresh spring air in;
Just wanted all of you to know that I am "good" for a while. I am having tests done to start the process of going on a transplant list but my overall health is very good and that will keep me riding the fence for a while – and I pray for a long, long while. As I told a good friend, I am really good at sitting on fences. I should be a politician.
I feel the good vibes and the prayers. Thank you so much! I'll just keep on keeping on, as they say. Our minds are so powerful and our attitude is magic.
I knew that I should be potty training him but it was so much easier to simply make up two bottles instead of one and then there would be about five minutes of silence, with the two munchkins happily and contentedly (and quietly) enjoying their bottle.
When they were 18 months and a month shy of 3 years old respectively and STILL on the bottle, well, things needed to change. I worried about this moment for weeks. I tried to think of plans. Plan A - and Plan B in case Plan A blew up in my face. So – Plan A was to wait until their Dad went on assignment (in the Air Force) where he worked off site three days and three nights. We'd take Daddy to the base on such-and-such morning and then go back to the house and throw all the bottles in the garbage. Cold Turkey! And then we would burrow in for three days and three nights of crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth, pounding heads against crib bars, going through bottle withdrawal – and after three days and three nights we would be boys and not babies. We would be bottleless and ready for potty training! We would be out of diapers and into training pants. Hoo Rah.
So – we drove Daddy to the base and came home. I asked the boys to gather all their bottles together. They happily did so. Like a game! Then I had them go out to the garbage cans and toss them into the brand spanking new empty garbage cans. And we went back inside and they jumped up and down and clapped their hands and asked what else they could throw away. And acted like nothing happened. They went and played with their stuffed animals and their Weebles and their Fisher-Price cars and acted like nothing happened. They had their lunch with their milk in sippy cups and again – no wailing, no tantrums, no kicking and screaming.
My babies miraculously turned into little boys with a snap of a garbage can lid.
And there was no Plan B.
And then two years ago, while she was innocently parked across the street along a vacant lot lined with boulders, she was creamed by a drunk driver who sideswiped her totally from back to front and then smashed the other side by squishing her against the boulders. I got up at 3:00 in the morning right after it happened and all I could do was stand there in my jammies and stare. I couldn't believe this had happened to my trusty excellent little car.
So I bought a new car and Mechanic Man parked Little Red in the garden.
The new one just doesn't have my heart. It has a very dull personality. It's boring. It's silver and so are a gazillion other cars. I'll park at the store and when I come out – there are a whole row of silver cars like ticky tacky houses all in a row. It doesn't call out to me. It just sits there, blending in with all the rest.
Maybe that explains why I have had a couple fender benders with it in the last couple months. It's almost like a disease. I'm starting to get paranoid. I'm starting to hyperventilate and second guess myself. Will today be another "bump" in the road?
I don't think my silver car likes me.
So, I went to the store to get stuff for home made tacos. Mechanic Man makes tacos to die for. I got home and discovered the corn shells broke when they were tossed in the bag with everything else, so I went back to the store to replace them.
And I bumped into the car next to where I parked. Don't ask me how. I don't know. It just happened. So I pulled to the spot in front of where I was and checked the damages. Scraped the front bumper on my car. Nice little dent in the door of the victim. I called my insurance company and relayed all the petty information.
- No – I'm not hurt.
- No – I'm not blocking traffic.
- Hell, no, I'm not fixing it THIS time.
- No – I don't know who owns the other car because they aren't here. It was parked.
- I'm in a parking lot and all the cars are parked.
- The owner isn't here. The owner parked their car and went into the store.
- Fine. I'll leave a note on the other car.
- Thank you so much.
Finally a guy came towards me and to the pile of junk car. I explained my predicament and he laughingly gave me my note back and said "Lady, too bad you didn't hit my car. I would have never noticed."
So – long story short – the gal that owned the car I hit wants to get a new car in a year and she doesn't care about the dent in the door and was very surprised that I even bothered to stick around. And the insurance company said that next time I have an accident I will have to pay two deductibles because I made a claim on this one and even though neither one of us wants our car repaired, you can't save up dings and scrapes and have them applied by one insurance claim if you have already made another claim. It's so confusing.
In the meantime, Mechanic Man found a little white Suzuki Swift and brought it home and parked next to Little Red. He's all excited about getting the car fixed up so we can run around on 40 miles per gallon. We got the little car on Thursday; Friday we were driving his big Town Car, when it suddenly smoked, popped, choked, and died a shuddering, sputtering death, on the freeway. As we waited for the tow truck, he said, "ya know, I think the cars have been talking to each other and this one is jealous."
Here are the boring details: Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidneys. For even more boring reading, you can look at http://www.kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/pdf/PKD.pdf. That will put you to sleep in a couple of minutes.
When I was 23, I called my parents to tell them I was pregnant with my first son. I lived in Indiana at the time while my husband was in the Air Force, stationed in Peru, Indiana. Mom informed me that Dad had Polycystic Kidney Disease, otherwise called PKD. I immediately offered one of my kidneys to him. And that's when I found out that PKD is one of the highest hereditary diseases, even above Diabetes, and that I more than likely had it too. I was officially diagnosed when I was 28.
There is no cure. But science has been making great strides over the years since I first found out about myself. Dialysis has gotten better. It used to be so abrasive to your system that you would run out of veins to use, or, like in my Dad's case, the solution can cause peritonitis and aneurisms. It's kind of scary.
Of my three siblings, one brother does not have PKD. My sister had a transplant, where her brother-in-law was the kidney donor. My brother had a transplant with a cadaver kidney. Both are perfect matches and both have been very healthy.
OK, that's the boring stuff. My brother and I have banded together to have a positive attitude on this and not dwell on the negatives. This was difficult to manage with our mother – who, for some reason, went through life with a cloud over her head. Every time we talked to her, it didn't matter about what, she would go into a tirade that I called "101 things you never wanted to know about polycystic kidney disease and wouldn't ask your mother so she's going to tell you anyway."
And I still don't want to know about those 101 things. Al and I decided 30 years ago that we would not dwell in the negative. We have both watched our health; we have both kept a sense of humor about our bodies and life. You just can't bog yourself down with heavy, negative thoughts. I remember calling Mom and in the conversation I wanted to speak to Dad but he was lying down, not feeling well, and Mom started on the kidney doom tale: "Your Dad is on dialysis six hours a day, three days a week, for the REST of his life and . . . ." I had heard this so many times that I got to the point I could instantly shut it off and all I heard was "bla bla bla bla bla bla bla." If I told her I didn't want to talk about it, she'd accuse me of sticking my head in the sand. My point of being positive was never taken. So, I shrugged my shoulders and turned on the bla bla tape and did something creative – like watered my plants – until she was done and then we could talk about something else entirely, like the Oregon beach. All is good!
Mom passed away three years ago this May. Her attitude finally did her in. One day, April 22, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Two weeks later she was in a coma and one week later, May 11, she was dead. I strongly believe her negativity finally got her.
So – back to me. I'm not discouraged. This is just a little snafu on my way through this life. I have an "attitude of gratitude" and my cup is always half full and getting fuller.
Many people asked me what they could do for me. Now here comes the real kerfunkle. One of the most difficult things for me to do is ask for help. Argghhh. I'd rather pull one of my own teeth. What can I ask for, anyway? I could hardly go around to all my friends asking for one of their kidneys. Eeeek. Hey, I love ya man, give me one of your kidneys. [hangs head in shame]
What I can say unequivocally is that friendship with you, all of you, is my ultimate grace. You are what keeps me going and keeps my humor up and my spirits up. I figure I have about 20 Very Best Friends Forever. Many I have never met in person. I have my dinner group friends, my Red Hat friends, my legal secretary/paralegal friends around the United States, and I have you, my blog friends. I figure I am just about one of the luckiest people on the planet. I have blogging friends who are intelligent, intellectual, and sharp; who are funny, witty, and gifted; who are professionals – attorneys, writers, medical, and who home school their children.
I blurked for quite a while and got to know people on Huckleberries. Then one of the first people to interact with me was Marmitoastie. I think we're twins! I'm fairly certain we are related in some way. And then I met Cindy and I tell you what – I think we're triplets! Way too much in common. Maybe it's because we all have boys. Maybe it's because we all love firemen. I don't know. But it's been a kick in the pants. Cindy and I met face to face early on and "knew" each other without introduction. We have bonded.
How blessed can I get? I have it all! See – attitude is EVERYTHING! Now it's not all so bad, is it?
That's why I have my four friends that meet together religiously once a month for the last 25 years. Sometimes one of us needs all four sets of shoulders. It's the closest thing we have to professional counseling and a hell of a lot cheaper. In fact, I think it's better. A counselor doesn't LOVE you. These four friends do. We love each other like sisters and sometimes like mothers. There isn't a problem or predicament that is too difficult or too convoluted that can't be aided and softened by this particular circle of friends.
We don't always get together to whine about our problems, although we know we can without criticism or judgment. A lot of times we get together and confess our antics and adventures, to gales of laughter. There was that time that "one of us" (never ever will I let on who it was, other than to say it unequivocally was NOT me) dyed her hair. All of her hair. Both on her head and down there. She wanted to look like a natural blonde – everywhere, which left nothing to the imagination for the rest of us on why she wanted to have matching hairdos. Instead of blonde down there, she was temporarily screaming her head off from the pain and was afraid her precious hair was being burned off by the chemicals. Never again – she'd shave it off first.
Another friend of the four recently had surgery for Parkinson's where battery packs were implanted in her chest with wires through her neck to her head that would subtly zap her to keep her shaking down to a low roar. She calls her implants her baby boobs, not to be confused with her big boobs.
She used to be a hair dresser. We've watched her hair go from bald to short, sticking straight up hair that was incredibly soft (so we were at restaurants where all four of us were running our fingers through her new soft hair, exclaiming how soft it was), to a chic new do in her natural salt-and-pepper color. (And no, it wasn't her that had the pubic hair adventure.) She's become stunningly beautiful.
Now it's my turn. I will be seeing my kidney specialist in a couple weeks to discuss either going on dialysis or being put on a transplant list. It is a monumental deal. It's not that I'm surprised because I have known this day would come, for many years. I kind of had hoped it would never come and that I would maintain as I have for so long. But coming it is – and fast.
My dinner with my friends is on the 15th – in time for me to use their shoulders and gain strength to face the verdict from my doctor. And they will be with me afterwards to carry me forward. That's what shoulders are for.