When I Am Old


When I’m old.

I come from a long line of people who live to be fairly old, barring accidents, wars and illnesses. My mother is 80 years old and takes care of her yard, garden, house and worked in a convenience store until last year. She quit not because stocking beer coolers and shelves was too much, but rather because of threats to her by underage kids she refused to sell beer to. She sits cross legged in her chair, without an ache, pain or hitch. She walks her little bow-legged dog and chases him out of the flower beds she tends so diligently.

My father was scampering around the mountains, up and down fire watch towers and hunting into his 80’s until a stroke ended his mountain climbing days.

I thought I’d be similarly active. I often said I expected to live to a ripe old age and, God willing, I would have just signed up for a painting or sculpting class at the local college.

The past two years have made me reassess those thoughts. Chronic pain will do that to you. Even so, I like to think I will eventually find a doctor who will actually fix what’s wrong and not just prescribe more pain pills that don’t ever completely work.

Diane, my former editor at Speedhorse and best friend, and I often talk about “when we are old.”

When we are old.

We will live together in her house near Dallas.

We’ll wear rhinestone-encrusted sneakers in totally inappropriate colors and, perhaps, dance at even more inappropriate times.

We’ll fix a big pot of baked potato soup and eat it all week long, not because we can’t afford to have something else, but rather because it’s just danged good and we don’t mind having the same thing over and over.

We’ll keep sticking our noses in causes and doing things because we think making even a small difference is better than making no difference. The kitchen will be filled with the smell of baking cookies going out to soldiers and the house will be filled with animals who deserved a second chance.

We’ll go to the farmer’s market on the last day because that’s when the produce is marked down and we don’t mind buying squashes that have a few bruises. My oh my, will we enjoy dish after dish of fresh vegetables. We’ll eat too much and moan about eating too much, then we’ll titter about how darned good it was.

We’ll go to the antique mall because we saved enough money on bruised vegetables that we have money to blow on fun stuff. Then, Diane’s already museumesque house will acquire another small treasure that will most likely mean nothing to anyone else but us, but, to us, it will be a special memory.

We won’t watch horror movies, because we are old and stuff like that scares us. However, we may write vampire stories because they have a social life and fashion sense.

We will send out birthday cards on time and we may even include gifts we spent a lot of time thinking about because we’re old and we have time to give a lot of thought to the perfect gift. We might just send some money, though, because we’re too busy doing other stuff to think.

We will spend too much money on the perfect skin cream because time marches on, but it doesn’t have to look like it marched over our faces. Thankfully, our eyesight is fading and we are busy so there is only so much time to devote to things like the perfect skin care regimen.

I will eat black jelly beans even when it isn’t Easter and Diane will grumble about me eating those horrible things. We can’t agree on everything.

We will laugh about trivial things only we find amusing. We’ll laugh about the aches and pains and diarrhea and nausea because if we don’t it’s just too damned depressing. We’ll send each other silly emails someone sent us even though we live in the same house and call out, “You’ve got mail!” We’ll laugh too much, and not enough.

We will write, because that’s what we do. We’ll write about anything that catches our fancy, and everything does. We’ll write that next book that’s been walking around in our head until we had to let it out before it wore a hole in the thin gray carpet that is still our mind.


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