all of the selves we Have ever been
When is old?
Crossing the dry creek bed we take long strides from rock to rock. Some of the stones are large and flat and easily accommodate the thick soles
of our hiking shoes. Other stones are narrow or pointed leaving our legs to wobble briefly as we balance before reaching out for the next stone.
Here we are, three adventurous 60-something gals in good health and good shape sharing an exquisitely beautiful nature preserve, and who pops into my head? Nurse Ratched. And what is she saying? “Have you had any recent falls?”
Her persistent voice buzzes around my head like a swarm of blood-sucking mosquitoes. I swat at these thoughts. Inside I am yelling: “Get away from me!”
With all of the routine inquiries about falling that occur after we cross the 60 line, it would appear that aging is a downhill journey, and one steep and slippery slope at that.
When I go for a medical appointment, I know the question is coming. Even so, I don’t like being asked if I have had any falls. Intellectually, I understand why the nurse has to ask, but the question annoys me nonetheless. I bristle at the suggestion that I am anything but sure-footed and sturdy. The inquiry seems to imply that I am too old to move with vigor and vitality, that frailty is to be expected, and I am just one tiptoe away from becoming bedridden.
“We don’t forget how to feel young.” – Barbara Pagano
But as I cross the dry creek bed I nearly fall from laughing. My mind goes to that silly place where I spend a lot of my time, that place where I am eternally young, the place where I am most myself and most at home. I summon up my FU-attitude and begin to make a plan for my next medical exam, a plan to stand up to the question of falling down: “Falls? Oh, yes, I have fallen! Many times. I have fallen in love, fallen in line with adventurous peers, fallen about in uncontrolled laughter, fallen back on good friends, and fallen into good fortune.”
And should I have to admit to being unsteady on my feet, I plan to deliver a truly great Walter Mitty explanation that defies the dreary stereotype of growing older. With luck and effort, maybe it will also be true. With each stepping stone, I come up with a new explanation for my imaginary future fall:
Things were going well when we left base camp, but you know how it is
on Mt. Everest—the weather can change without warning.
My parachute failed.
I was roller skating across country when a tornado touched down in my path. I thought I could outrun it.
The view from the tree top was spectacular, but I thought the Rainforest guide was saying, “Grab the wine!” What he really said was “Grab the vine.”
The headline said, “Sex after 60.” I thought they were describing the speed limit.
I will supply the details and polish my story in rehab--if it comes to that.
If you are forced to justify a swift, unexpected transition to an unwanted horizontal position, feel free to use one of the above explanations. All I ask is this: tell the nurse that you were with me.
If we’re going down, let’s be fabulous.
Break a leg!