MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL

mirror mirror

 There was an article in the NY Times this week entitled, “Do your friends actually like you?” Research shows that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. The study was done on 21-34 year-olds. Turns out that while those young people were 95% certain that their besties really were their besties that was only true about 50% of the time. Whoops.

 If this research were done on older people, my guess is that the results would be vastly different. We are not so easily deluded. Time has made us infinitely wiser and more humble in spite of ourselves. Once you hit 50, you likely know the difference between the friend who will visit you in jail and the one who will actually bail you out. (Don’t ask me why this particular analogy is right at my fingertips).

 When I was 5, there was a TV show called, “Romper Room,” which I loved. “Miss Sherri,”** was the hostess on our local station and I was pretty sure that she was my friend. She was sweet, loved kids and always taught us to be, “Do Bee’s.” The best part of the show was at the end. She held up her ‘Magic Mirror,’ “So that I can see all of you at home.” I knew that she could see us because she even said our names like, ‘I see Mary and Jenny and Johnny and Tommy and.” But in all the times I watched, she never once said, “Helen.” Not once, although I often yelled at her, “Miss Sherri, it’s Helen! I’m here. Right here. I’m watching, too!”

 Somewhere between then and now I found my very, best friend. She knows everything about me and still loves me. She brings me up short if I stray and praises me when I follow the straight and narrow. We have no secrets and no hidden agendas. She’s not perfect but some parts of her are just awesome!  We understand and accept each other as we are.  No matter where we are, we are there for each other, always and forever.   I don’t even need to call or text her. I just have to look in the mirror. As Granny used to say, “You can’t ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ if you don’t love yourself first.”

**Sherri Finkbine made headlines in the 1960’s when she accidentally took a common sleeping pill containing Thalidomide early in her 5th pregnancy.  Her doctor suggested a therapeutic abortion, but it was illegal at the time.  She and her husband were forced to go to Sweden instead.  It was determined that her fetus was so badly deformed and damaged from the drug that it would not have survived.  Now in her 80’s, Sherri is the mother of 6 children.   

 

  

 

 

 

PUT ON YOUR GLASSES!!

glasses4

A few years ago, while looking at pictures from a trip to Colorado, there was a gray-haired woman in a red sweatshirt who I didn’t recognize. I knew it wasn’t me. My hair is not that gray and I don’t own a red sweatshirt. Finally, I asked my husband.

“Honey, who is that?” I prodded. “That woman in the red sweatshirt.”

He looked at the photo then looked back at me.

“Are you serious?” he said as if I were wacko.

“Yes, that woman with the gray hair. I don’t recognize her at all.”

“Wow,” he said. “Put on your glasses.”

It WAS me. I had borrowed someone’s shirt because it was cold.

            This also happened some 30 years ago when I received proof sheets from a photographer who had taken my headshots. At first, I thought they sent someone else’s photos: someone infinitely younger and prettier. Nope. They were mine but all were shot at the perfect, flattering angle under great lighting with a plethora of makeup!

          Last week, a 60-foot tree fell in our yard, brought down the power lines and ripped out a portion of our roof. THAT I saw clearly. What I missed was, ‘the fine print’ in our homeowner’s insurance: “You are responsible for the first 6,000 in damages accrued.”

        There’s an old adage that says, “Believe NONE of what you hear and HALF of what you see.” Maybe whoever wrote it realized that things aren’t always what they seem, no matter how they appear. Or maybe he was looking through a pair of squashed glasses like mine above.

       When Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, he didn’t patent them. His feeling was that, “As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

      Now the most common eyesight problems over age 60 are: macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. So, visit your eye doctor! Then, put on your glasses! Remember, you don’t have to be old to miss the fine print or not get ‘the whole picture.’ It just means you’re human.

      Tonight, my husband couldn’t find an entire head of lettuce staring at him from the fridge shelf. (Normally, the ketchup eludes him). So, I said, “Put on your glasses, Dear. It’s not like the lettuce is disguised and wearing a red sweatshirt.”      

 

TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE NOT A KID ANYMORE

smiley face2

 

  1. Everything hurts and if it doesn’t you’re just waiting for it to.
  2. “Your Body is a Wonderland,” in every sense of the word. Skin has gone south from your forehead to your ankles leaving a series of tiny, folded wrinkles that you can move around willy-nilly.
  3. Instead of tanning, you become covered with a splash of brown spots right out of a Jackson Pollock painting.
  4. Your teeth get bigger but your mouth gets smaller. (This is likely purposeful so that you will chew better and eat less).
  5. Everyone you see driving is entirely too young to be behind the wheel.
  6. You ask people on the phone to “speak up,” often more than once, and you still don’t know what they said.
  7. Complete strangers routinely ask if you have grandkids.
  8. Your mailbox is filled with ads for retirement homes, nursing facilities and funeral companies.
  9. You’re always looking for ramps.
  10. You can actually make a smiley face with the extra skin around your knees! (Test this by lying on your back and raising your leg in the air.)

 

YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG…OR OLD

Helen in locker

 Yup. That’s me, playing, “Hide and Seek” in the pool locker room this morning. Couldn’t resist. Two little girls had been hiding and finding each other as their mothers pretended to knock on all the doors in search for them. The longer I watched, the more that I wanted to play, too. Finally, I said, “Hey you guys, can I play, too?” They both looked at me with wide eyes and open mouths. Neither spoke. They just stared. Finally one said, “You’re way, too big.” I love a challenge.

 “Well, let’s see,” I said, stepping inside.

 “She fits!” the littlest one squealed with delight.

 Unfortunately, I rather filled the space and couldn’t close the door behind me. As I pondered what to do next, one of the mothers kindly said, “Go ahead. I’ll close the door for you.”

 As soon as it shut, one of the girls said in a voice that mimicked her mother, “Where’s the old lady?”

 The other one chimed in, “Where’s the OLD, OLD lady?”

 Both squealed and giggled upon opening my locker door.

 “Found you,” they said in chorus.

 I giggled, too. It is just as much fun hiding as it is being found. In all the trials and travails of aging, it never hurts to be silly now and then. Here is to you finding your ‘inner kid’ today. 

 

 

 

 

 

Wimbledon? Nope, Whiffletoe

 whiffle toe

Since experts insist that once you’re over 50 you must, “Keep, learning something new,” I took up Pickle ball last week. Well, let me re-phrase that; I have only played two games. Since there is only one court at the Y, and usually a dozen, avid players, one has to sign in and wait.

As I picked out a wooden paddle and watched the proceedings, three older (and I mean older) men came up to me. Each said one sentence apiece:

 “Hi. I’m Dave. Does your husband play?”

“No,” I replied. He abruptly walked off.

 “Hey, my name’s Joe, I just wanted you to know that we only have one rule here.”

“What’s that?” I asked hopefully.

“Spouses are not allowed to play together.”

 The third guy didn’t even tell me his name. He just walked up and said, “Are you married?”

“Yes,” I smiled, “very.”

 Perhaps it is not a game of social graces. Although, my first partner was British and arrived in dress whites with an ascot around his neck. He immediately chose the server position and for the next 10 minutes constantly told me where to stand, how to hit, and what I was doing wrong. He also made most of our errors. We lost, 11-5. At the end, he said, “Not bahhd . . .for your fuhst time.” 

If you’re thinking this sounds like too much fun, I should add that Pickle ballers are highly opinionated, despite the fact that most of them can barely move at all. As a tennis player, I felt that I had an advantage. Apparently not.

 During my 2nd game ever, EVERY time I hit the ball, some guy yelled at me from the bench:  

 “Don’t take such a wide swing!”

“Don’t power the ball. It’s all in your wrist. Keep your wrist loose.”

“No, no, no, the ball has to bounce first before you hit it!”

 Finally, he screamed: “Don’t go into the kitchen!!!”

 At that point, I thought he was insulting my cooking. Apparently, ‘the kitchen’ is the narrow rectangular area closest to the net. One toe over that line disqualifies your point. 

So here’s the kicker; my partner was 85 and we won 11-7 against an established team. Their reply? “Well, it’s probably just because you’re both tennis players.”

I’ve decided to invent my own sport; Whiffle toe.There are no rules and no one yells at you. It might catch on.

 

 

 

 

YIKES!! I’M DISAPPEARING!

growing old poster

I’m a lousy candidate for depression or suicide. Sure, I have my gloomy moments but they never last long. There’s just too much to look forward to. It’s like my brain thinks I might win the lottery even though I haven’t even purchased a ticket!  Now science will tell you that’s because my endocrine system secretes more positive chemicals than negative ones. Science might also say that it’s because I exercise every day and thus increase my endorphins. However, I actually think that it is the creative, if not wacky, way that I think.

 Case in point: Last week, while sitting in the sauna, I stretched out what used to be a long, lean muscled leg and noticed that the skin was slack.  By pressing my hands on either side of my calf, I could actually push it together creating the bellows of an accordion.   Around my thigh, there was a small pooch of hanging skin which resembled a shriveled, turkey breast that wasn’t quite firmly stuffed. Where had the fullness of that muscle gone?  At that moment a young girl walked into the sauna and I shrieked, “Look at this! I’m disappearing from the inside out!” She stood quite still; confused I am certain, as to whether or not she was safe alone with me.

“Look!” I said again, “I can make my calf look like an accordion.”  I demonstrated.  “And, my thigh used to look just like yours but now the muscle has shrunk and there is this cute, sagging sack left behind.” Poor thing was at a loss for words, but she sat down at the far side of the sauna anyway.  I continued my observations: “Not only that, look what happens to your upper arm as you age.” I held out my right arm and poked the loose flesh of the upper part with my pointer finger. It wiggled. “Cool, huh?” I said to her.

 The girl was quiet for a moment then said, “Well, I guess I have something to look forward to.” She did not say this with much enthusiasm.

“Yes you do,” I agreed. “In fact, see all these little, brown spots on the back of my hands and on my arms?”

“Yes,” she replied quite confidently. “Those are old age spots.”

 “Oh, no, dear, you’re wrong,” I assured her. “Actually these are little chocolate drops that appear on your skin as you get older. You see, the more chocolate that you eat when you are young, the more that come up to the surface when you’re old.”

“Guess I’d better cut down on my chocolate,” she finally said with a big smile.              

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE ‘GRAY’ THE NEW ‘GAY’

 

grey mare

When I heard that Hillary Clinton recently had a NYC salon closed to patrons while she had her hair colored, it made me feel pretty sad. It wasn’t that she paid $600 for the dye job. It was the fact that she felt she had to do it at all.

 For years, women have been given the message that ‘gray’ is not acceptable. Even my grandmother once fell for the TV ads that encouraged her to, “Rinse away the gray.” When the first rinse didn’t last, she applied some gunk that resembled shoe polish on her gray streaks. I watched her perform the task in front of the bathroom mirror. A few hours later she looked at herself and said, “Oh, dear. I look ridiculous.” And she did.

 Now I have many friends who would not dream of letting 6 weeks go by without a visit to their colorist. They tell me that it makes them feel better, “not to look so old.” But I believe that if we lived in a culture that accepted us as is, we would be lots happier AND richer. We don’t need something superficial to make us, ‘feel better.’ Our culture should make us feel good about ourselves just as we are–at every age.

 Isn’t it odd that in this day of political correctness, we accept every, conceivable minority group yet still consider aging, graying and the old negatively? And you know what’s really weird? The elderly are not even in the ‘minority’ anymore. We are the majority now. We need to change the lyrics to that ‘old’ song:  “Nope, the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be. She’s even more glorious now.”

 40 years ago I lived in a condo with a walking path that passed by my living room window. Every afternoon, an older lady took her daily walk. As she passed, I always stopped what I was doing to watch her. Her posture was straight and elegant, her stride, long and smooth and her hair? It was solid gray and swept back into a very, long ponytail. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Someday when I am THAT old, I want to look JUST like her.’ Looking in the mirror, I can see that I am well on my way.

 

 

 

 

WHAT, ME WORRY??

jean calment

 

Imagine being born before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone—and not dying until cell phones were in use. Such was the case of Jean Calment, a woman from Arles, France who lived to be 122; the oldest living person ever documented. She not only outlived her husband and children, but her own grandchildren as well. The kicker? She smoked cigarettes for 100 years. No, that is not a typo.

 Was it good genes, diet, exercise? Not sure. Jean told people that she ate olive oil every day and even rubbed it on her skin. “I only have one wrinkle,” she said, “and I am sitting on it.”  She also enjoyed 2 lbs. of chocolate per week and swore that drinking good Port wine was essential. But I don’t think that was it either.

 Here is my take on her longevity. One researcher noted that she seemed, “almost biologically immune to stress.” As Calment said herself, “If you can’t do anything about it, why worry?” She also told others that even her name meant ‘calm’ and that was how she had lived her life. Indeed. Why worry? Perhaps that simple letting go of what you cannot change will increase your happy years ahead.

 So, my hat is off to this gal who once sold colored pencils to Vincent Van Gogh. She has set the bar for those of us who fret over the many things we simply cannot do anything about. For the record, Jean did quit smoking at the age of 115. I have to wonder though if it was simply because she could no longer see well enough to light it.  

 

 

FROM MICE TO MEN?

mice to men

I must be getting cranky in my older age when I am far more excited about a scientific discovery than in watching one, more ridiculous political debate. The real, ‘movers and shakers,’ we should be paying attention to are those who make the world a more beautiful place, not an uglier and more divided one.

So here’s the news: researchers in Australia have been able to restore brain function in mice! Granted, people are not mice, (though some politicians imply otherwise.). These scientists have been able to use a type of ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves gently open up the blood-brain barrier, (which is the layer that protects the brain against bacteria), and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglial cells are the waste-removal cells. Once activated, they are able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s!

This is crazy, wild, cutting-edge science and I am intrigued. Granted, by the time my own brain may have amyloid plaque it may be too late. However, imagine the possibilities for future generations. Frankly, I would rather pin my hopes on this kind of science than on any present, political candidate. So, don’t look for a sign in my yard or on my bumper with someone else’s name on it. My vote goes to those who actually make our lives better and more beautiful. And from artist to zoologist, you know who you are.

IF ONLY . . .

 

 sky in the icebox

‘If only I were taller!’ That is exactly what I imagined my pup was thinking this morning when she spied the carrots in the icebox. (Yes, that is what I still call it. So much simpler than its’ five syllable counterpart.) It got me thinking about all the “If only’s” in my life when I was that young: If only I had different colored hair, lived in this house, in that town, or came from a different family.  If only this hadn’t happened and that had.  Then life happened and I grew up, accepting that sometimes you just have to appreciate those carrots from a distance.

Therein lies the single, best thing about being a Boomer: we managed to get to this age in spite of all the things that didn’t happen. We survived the disappointments and have long resigned ourselves to the fact that we are what we are. And what are we? Resilient. That means that we have been ‘bent, stretched and compressed,’ yet still have ‘sprung back.’ It’s not just a matter of having developed thicker skin. We are tougher on the inside. That’s a gift but it was hard earned over time.

When 20 something’s tell me that they are ‘devastated’ over a breakup or have just lost a job, I think to myself, ‘Well, what’s the big deal? I’ve had dozens of those.’ At their age, though, it IS a big deal because they have no history to draw from. They are experiencing things for the first time and it can feel crushing. They are just starting their foundations while our roofs are fully intact!

So, while the young are making memories, we are remembering ours. Hopefully, they are rich and full, heartwarming and bittersweet. We have terra firma under us. Gravitas.  I confess, though, to still having one, ‘If only’ left: “If only time didn’t go so very, very fast.”  Still munching on that one.