Bit by Bit

My body is literally falling apart. I know I’m getting older, but I didn’t think it would hit so hard, so fast. I’m like a cellphone right at that two year mark—battery dying, power button failing, screen cracked. Someone is going to need to order a replacement soon.

Here are the pieces of me that are currently not functioning properly:

1. My teeth. I had to get a whole bunch of fillings because apparently I hate myself and I wanted someone to drill into my face for a couple hours. PSA: Floss. Just do it.

2. My left wrist and elbow. My wrist and elbow turn out to be a moderately effective tools for breaking a fall, but the move is not without sacrifice.

Dave and I were on a run to try and find this new fancy soccer field near us. We were kicking around the ball, and I tried to steal it from him at an inopportune time—that time being while he was on his phone and we were running on uneven bricks. I fell. I maintain that it was his fault and not the fault of my lack of coordination, inexperience playing any kind of sport with a ball, or the treacherous terrain. He maintains that it was an unfortunate accident. I think we all know who is right.

3. My right wrist and forearm. Same incident, but for this one the fence was the culprit. It had it out for me from the start. Dirty, rotten fence.

4. My left knee and hip. Same incident, obviously. It was the gift that kept on giving. Note to all: If you feel like collapsing on the ground, avoid jagged bricks.

5. My head. It’s been pounding since this morning, either from the drilling into my face earlier or the drilling into the ground in front of my house all day. Or it might be the twelve men yelling outside my door about the gas lines. I don’t know. No one else seems to understand when it’s gloomy outside, it’s quiet time. People just keep on going about their business, like they don’t even care about my plans for the day.

I guess this is just what happens when you’re old and clumsy. I need to start thinking ahead. I better buy one of those informercial wheelchairs that I can ride around the Grand Canyon.

Higher and Higher

When I was younger my mom used to scold me for climbing on the counters to get stuff out of the high cupboards. I obviously never stopped, because I’m short and I need things.

When I was home a few weeks ago, she asked me to get something from a shelf above the fridge, knowing full well I am the same size as always and have not developed Inspector Gadget arms. So I went for it. She watched—without comment—as I climbed up on the counter, reached across the fridge, and handed the thing down to her.

Either the world is falling apart or everything is finally falling into place. I haven’t decided yet, but I know something’s up. I’ll fill you guys in when I have more evidence.

Hardcore Oldcore

Tonight I officially turned 83. I spent the evening listening to musical soundtracks from the 50s and 60s and putting together a puzzle. On a puzzle mat. Wrapped in blanket to protect myself from the winter draft. I bet if I’d checked my pockets at the time they’d be filled with used tissues and cough drops. This was all after I’d completed my very strenuous exercise routine of the day: taking a brisk walk after dinner. I even changed into sneakers before the endeavor because I wanted to be sure I didn’t hurt my feet.

I know I’m only settling into who I’ve always been—an old lady trapped in the body of a not-quite-so-old lady. I remember once being at a party at my parents’ friends’ house. Their home was the epitome of fun. They had a pool, a trampoline, and a hot tub. It seems unimaginable that any home could be gifted with all three of these, but this place was built to be a haven of happy. I think it was willed into existence for the sole purpose of bringing people together to laugh and eat and dance. There was a garage full of strange off-road vehicles that my sister and I were never allowed in. There was always rock music blasting through the speakers. But, most importantly, there was a policy of wild freedom and unabashed love—instilled by one of my parents’ oldest friends, the ultimate matriarch and an unparalleled embracer. It was the best place to be a kid. And yet, it was there I was first told I was, at my core, not quite a kid at all.

This couple had plenty of these parties and, at each one, I would try my best at the beginning to keep up with the other kids. I loved the trampoline, and I was happy in the pool, but I’d inevitably end up back in the garage, standing at the knees of the adults, or in the living room, sitting at their feet. It was easier there. I could hide in plain sight, listening to their conversations and quietly cataloging all the new information. One night I was standing at the bottom of the garage steps while a group chatted away. In the middle of the discussion, another of my parents’ friends—one with a bellowing laugh and a penchant for bright Hawaiian shirts—turned and looked down at me. He told me, seriously but kindly, that I had an old soul—a claim that would seem contrived if it hadn’t come from a member of this tie-dye wearing, long-haired, heavy-hugging crew. He said he could see the little adult in me, my mind always turning.

At the time, it embarrassed me—the acknowledgement of my presence even more than the statement. It may have seemed like a compliment, but I knew all the cool kids were out bouncing on the trampoline or jumping back and forth between the pool and the hot tub. And now I knew it wasn’t just me who realized I wasn’t with them. I didn’t respond. I filed it away in the brain folder where I kept things adults said that I didn’t completely understand. There it stayed, waiting for other notes to slide up next to it. And the rest of them came. I read books while other kids played with dolls. Put that next to the original “not quite a kid” file. I saved my money instead of spending it on candy. Slide that right up there with the others. I fell in love with classic movies. Slot that in right behind the last one. I got teased for putting on the Motown radio station when a friend came over to play. Another entry to log. Eventually there was enough material on the subject to warrant a separate folder, and there was no denying the truth.

Decades later, that friend came up to me at a wedding. He repeated what he’d told me when I was five and said he remembered the way I used to stand nearby, quietly listening to their conversations instead of running around with the other kids. This time, I nodded along with him. The folder of proof that I had really always been an old lady was bursting and there was no retreat from the facts. Plus, YouTube videos of old men dancing at raves and grandmothers playing pranks on their grandchildren had taught me that growing old is mostly about boldly embracing your true self. I told him I remembered those moments too, and then I walked over to the DJ in my sensible dancing shoes and requested “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

Sandstorm

I’m feeling creatively stifled, but, in a rare practice of self-discipline, here I am. They say to write what you know, so I’m going to write about the sand that has taken up residence inside me. It’s been sneaking in slowly, filling up the cracks in my skin, grain by grain. I try hard to keep those tiny fissures open just in case a little ray of inspiration wants to wiggle its way through. I do handstands to shake the dust loose. But not today. Today the cracks are stuffed full.

The little construction workers who live in my belly are trying to smash open the windows of their home. They’re chipping away with tiny pick axes, covering their tiny heads with tiny yellow helmets. They’re singing miner tunes and eating lunch from tiny buckets on their union-mandated breaks.

But sand is persistence. It hides under the mats in your car and inside the seams of your swimsuit. It flies through the sky, invisible until it finds its way into your eye. You think it’s just breeze and up comes a storm.

If I can’t shake it loose, I’ll have to wait it out. Eventually, lightening will strike and it’ll all turn to glass. Or the construction workers will finally buck up and get the job done. Either way.

The Mannequin Challenge

I just read a story about a few police officers in New York who smashed a car window to save an old woman. She looked about 80 or 90, with a head full of grey hair and skin covered in liver spots. It was freezing outside, and she wasn’t wearing a jacket—just a beige and tan patterned sweater over a light pink blouse and an oxygen mask strapped to her face. Most significantly, she was completely unresponsive.

Because she was a mannequin.

Apparently the person who had buckled this mannequin into his car sells medical supplies, and Fran was meant to be used for CPR training. (Note: I named her Fran, not the guy. Though I really have no idea. He might call her Fran. She looks like a Fran.) Dave thinks the guy actually buckled her in so he could use the carpool lane. That’s probably true, because who would buckle a mannequin into the front seat of their car? Was he trying to keep it in good shape? Why not use the back seat then? Maybe just lay her gently in the trunk? Either he was using poor Fran to sneak into the carpool lane or he’s going through some kind of existential crisis and was looking for the support of a kind, grandmotherly figure.

I like to imagine that Frank—what I’ve now named the medical salesman—just wanted someone to chat with on his long drives to and from various hospitals and doctor’s offices. Fran was probably a great listener—never judging, giving him a lot of space to really get out his thoughts and feelings. Of which he apparently had a lot. When he found out the police officers had smashed his window to rescue Fran, he was super mad. Apparently he yelled at them a bunch and got a little aggressive.

The police chief, however, adamantly supported his officer. He said that any time they find a life-like mannequin in someone’s car during a bout of freezing temperatures, they’ll break the windows. So everyone be warned. If it’s cold, just bring your mannequins inside. You could set them up in front of the fire and listen to the crackling wood together. You could read a good book (you’d have to read out loud, obviously). You could watch a Turner Classic movie. Probably skip Psycho though, just so no one gets the wrong idea.

Millennial Meals

Today I added yet another line to the list of things that prove how old I really am. I was reading some nonsense on the internet and came across a list of restaurants serving ridiculously deconstructed meals. They were all classic dishes with a twist—the twist being that the restaurants don’t actually make any meals for you. You can get a salad consisting of one giant lettuce leaf and a bowl of dressing. Or a pasta with every ingredient in separate mason jars. Or a fruit crumble spread across a wooden board.

It’s nonsense. I am totally uninterested in paying someone to not make me a meal. That’s just a really, really expensive grocery store, and that box in my life has already been checked by Whole Foods, thank you very much.

In conclusion, I am old. I am not hip enough to be interested in fancy food trends. Also, my pockets are full of tissues and I have to turn up the volume on my TV to an unreasonably high level.

Spaghetti Dreams

Yesterday I watched a video of a baby falling asleep while eating spaghetti. He was so dedicated to achieving maximum pasta consumption that he kept half waking up from his dazed state to stuff more carbs in his face. Due to his being a baby with developing motor skills and his extreme sleepiness, he was covered in tomato sauce.

I also watched a bunch of videos of baby goats. Goats treating a farm store like a personal jungle gym. Goats gently head butting cats. Goats jumping onto giant swings. These little creatures were fitting more exuberant activity into 36 seconds than I usually do in a week.

And then I realized I’m not living up to my full potential.

I could be eating spaghetti as I fall asleep. I could be jumping and swinging from place to place instead of this boring walking deal I’ve always got going on. I could be head butting cats out of love. (Just kidding, I would never do that. Cats are cray and can’t be trusted.) I could be leaping through life like a little farm animal.

Ok, to be honest, that’s all beginning to sound pretty exhausting. I’m going to start with the pasta in bed situation and then reassess. I think that’s where my real potential lies, and it’s important to be truthful when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

Love Songs

loverooftops

We have new neighbors upstairs. They’re young and impassioned and in love. At least, I think they’re in love. They scream at one another a lot—loudly and with frequent curse words. I understand. Life is hard. Sometimes one of you gets stuck in traffic on the way home and the other forgets to defrost the chicken. I assume. I don’t eat chicken, but a lot of marital arguments in 90s sitcoms seemed to be centered around someone forgetting to defrost the chicken.

I actually have no idea why they’re fighting. I wish I did. Maybe I could send a message by homing pigeon to help. But, alas, I can’t understand what they’re saying. Maybe one of them is a huge jerk (possible spoiler: based on tone alone, it’s him).  I can tell you one thing though. I’m not interested in coming along for their ride on this emotional rollercoaster. If I’m on a rollercoaster, it’d better have a catchier name than Generic Young Couple Upstairs. I prefer the Super Mega Dragon Death Spiral. (Note: When I asked Dave what a good name for a rollercoaster would be he said, “The Mantis Shrimp. It’s a small rollercoaster, but it packs a big punch.” Biology humor for the win.)

I’ve tried and tried to jump off this ride I’m currently strapped into with these new neighbors, but nothing seems to be working. Yesterday, as they started to scream at one another, Dave and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We put on a playlist of songs about young love and turned it up. We tried to cover a lot of ground, since we couldn’t tell what their problem was exactly. I thought maybe we would inspire them to really get in touch with the truth of their conflict and confront their real emotions.

It didn’t help. In the space between the changing songs, we heard them continue to yell. We thought maybe they couldn’t quite hear the lyrics. We’re nice and helpful, so we sang them extra loud. For awhile, we thought it was working. We could barely hear them screaming. I thought we’d inspired them to sit down and have a nice heart to heart. But then we stopped belting love songs at one another, turned the music down, and discovered we were wrong. We were just drowning them out with our excellent musical talents. It’s like they didn’t even care about us at all. Almost like they were so involved in their own drama, they weren’t thinking about anyone else around them.

You just can’t force love, I guess. Also, you can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait.

Basically, love doesn’t appreciate being told what to do, so just leave it alone.

Lessons in a Ramen Shop

soup

I’m back, friends.

I’ve been away because my brain was getting crowded and the world was slowly crumbling.  But I realized that my brain is always crowded and the world is steadily crumbling, so I might as well start writing about it again. But I’m not going to write about that now. I’m starting light. I’m going to tell you about my extra exciting ramen eating experience last week.

Dave and I stopped at a new restaurant to enjoy some soup, because we just really like to live adventurously. We’re wild like that. I later found out that plenty of people have been to this particular shop and it’s super popular. We didn’t know that though because we’re too busy being free-spirited and living in the moment to ask our friends for restaurant recommendations or check yelp reviews. The validity of our wild ways was affirmed that evening because the ramen was delicious. I’d like to say that it’s encouraged me to continue this life of spontaneity, but I know myself, so I’m not gonna push it. Even then, I made sure to check the menu before walking into the building. Baby steps.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this story.

That evening, we sat at the bar where the chefs make the ramen. Here are some great things I learned from that experience. First, the bigger your vat of broth, the bigger your broth-scooper needs to be. If you have a vat the size of a tiny human, you need a ladle the size of a tiny human head. Second, in a battle between maintaining your hairstyle and enjoying your soup, choose the soup. Third, always order the extra seaweed.

That is also not the point of this story.

While we were sitting at the bar, two young women came to sit next to us. The other patrons were regular ramen enjoyers, mostly people at the end of a work day trying to grab a bite before heading home. Not these ladies. They were there on a mission. They were going to try a novel meal and grow their Instagram followers. They sat down, talking loudly about some serious social media drama. They both had their phones gripped and flashed their screens back and forth to one another. It got intense. I think. I was distracted by their layers of chic, trendy winter gear. I was also distracted by the way every other person at the table started to listen to them. The girls weren’t distracted by the attention. They were interested only in the attention of their internet tribe.

They settled in at the bar. They looked at the menus. They looked at their phones. They looked at the drink menus. They looked at their phones. The waitress stopped to ask them what they wanted. They didn’t look at her. They ordered their meals in phrases that sounded like questions and then they looked at their phones again. The bowls came and they immediately got overwhelmed. They took a few pictures. With their phones. Duh. They stared at the broth, piled high with vegetables and noodles. They weren’t sure how they were going to eat all those noodles. They made certain the other one knew there was just no way they’d be able to eat all those noodles. Seriously, no way. (I’ve never had that problem in my life. Here’s the solution to not being able to finish your noodles: wait fifteen minutes and then try again.) They got confused about the broth-noodle combo and looked around for appropriate cutlery. One of them asked for a fork. The other checked her phone.

All the while, the people around us were clearly rapt. Everyone was a little quieter—half their attention drawn away from their meals toward these Instagram-loving girls. Unfortunately, the girls didn’t notice. They didn’t care about anything going on around them. As I listened to them yammer on and on, I thought if we could just direct that self-assured boldness toward something more important, girls like this could take over the world. They kind of have already. If the world had just done a better job of telling these girls what to value, maybe they would have used their unbridled confidence to cure cancer or solve world hunger.

Or maybe they do. I don’t know. They’re probably brain surgeons.

Anyway, this was supposed to be light. Remember when I told you to always order the extra seaweed. I changed my mind. That’s the point of this story.