Rerun: When I’m 90

Since you died, I’d been sort of hoping for an early and quick death myself. There are people in my life who hate hearing that. I’m grateful for them, and apologetic, too. But I think these friends and family members would prefer honest expressions over a meringue version of myself — whipped into a perky, melt-in-your-mouth-spectacle, (so pretty and light!). It’s going to take some time. Everyone’s been kind and patient.

Yesterday, a surfer in Singapore inadvertently brought this old post to my attention. I had forgotten writing it, forgotten thinking these thoughts and feeling these feelings. It’s good to be reminded of how optimistic I was.

Come to think of it, I wrote about Grandma approximately 12 hours before meeting you, an uncanny post in retrospect. Nonetheless, maybe reflecting on Mary’s qualities brings out something good in me; maybe that’s what you saw that night. But I digress, here’s that earlier piece from 2008 . . .

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[The following was posted August 6, 2008]

This morning I considered, without fear or reservation, what it will be like to be 90. To be in this body and have it be 90 years old.

Up until now, I hadn’t even considered being 64. I had sung the words but never really let myself think about the day “when I get older, losing my hair, many years from now.” All of The Beatles should have been so lucky. My grandmother, Mary, outlived George Harrison.

Today, I imagined what 2059 could be like for me if I’m lucky enough to have Grandma’s health and prosperity. Assuming that the polar ice caps will somehow hold out, that we’ll eventually bring our troops home from the Middle East, and that China and Venezuela will abstain from invading North America, I could spend my last decade discussing the most entertaining new authors with my grand niece via the archaic iChat every 2nd Tuesday of the month. Modern conveniences will make it unnecessary to leave the house for books and food, but I’ll go out for church and concerts and coffee with friends.

At Grandma’s memorial, the pastor told a story about how when he first arrived in town, she–in her late 80s at the time, and probably shrunk down to about 4’11” high–showed up at his doorstep with an armful of a variety of small town and big city newspapers. Suggested reading. He knew what she was implying: a good pastor remains well versed on current events.

As time went on, she made a habit of sending the pastor clippings of the articles she felt he should read. I’m sure her acute sense of etiquette prevented her from writing “How does that man sleep at night??!” next to George Bush’s name the way she did on the clippings she sent to me. (Now, if Grandma were still alive, I would never be so bold as to broadcast her private political views this way. She had firm opinions, but her modus operandi was to be polite. To her that meant that topics prone to disagreement would not be raised.)

This morning, when I felt a new sense of excitement over what being that old could mean, my vision of the 90 year old Ruth was specific. I imagined shaking hands with a younger adult (perhaps someone who hasn’t been born yet). In the fantasy, I smile at this young person, and without words, I communicate clearly to this individual that life is good. My Grandma did that when she walked into a room. People were always happy to see her. I want to be like that when my body is finished shrinking and my cane comes with me most everywhere I go.

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