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12.20.13 Issue

From the Crone’s Corner by Ozzie Nogg

So I’m in a check-out line, and even with my bad hearing I can make out the conversation a woman behind me is having on her cell phone. “This morning,” the woman says, “I go to the dentist and he tells me I need a tooth pulled and he’ll replace it with an implant.” Now comes a pause (I figure the person on the other end is putting in his or her two cents), and then the woman behind me barks into her phone, “Are you kidding? At my age, why would I want an implant? I mean, at my age how much use will I get out of the thing, anyway?” A question to ponder, surely.

It’s not uncommon for people in my demographic to offer variations of actuarily-speaking-I-won’t-live-much-longer-so-why-should-I-plant-a-pear-tree-or-book-a-slow-boat-to-China-or-invest-in-soy-bean-futures? Fine. I get it. We all run out of time. This humongous truth can stop us dead in our tracks before (how else to say it) we’re actually dead in our tracks. Now, if sitting around waiting for the inevitable is almost sinful, then pretending we can avoid the inevitable is downright delusional. But what’s a girl to do? I know the lyrics to September Song. I also know the words to I’m Gonna Live Till I Die. Thing is, on any given day I could be humming either tune. Or both, in counterpoint.

When I hear Walter Huston talk his way through, “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September” I whisper, “Amen.” Let’s wipe away a tear and raise our glasses to long-ago courtship and transient desire and memories and days dwindling down to a precious few and autumn weather and winter (we know what that represents). But even though my pragmatic self yammers, “Welcome to reality, Kiddo,” I’m nonetheless astonished that this hippie in white go-go boots is now this white-haired broad with friends at the Blumkin Home.

Then, while still awash in melancholy, I hear Sinatra belt out, “Before my number’s up I’m gonna fill my cup, I’m gonna live, live, live until I die,” and I shout, “Amen” to that sentiment, too. Let’s drink to repainting the living room purple if I wanna, and let’s toast bouquets of iris, dark chocolate caramels, eyeliner, fish and chips, vodka, pedicures and a new pair of skinny jeans because my teenage granddaughters politely and with straight faces have assured me, “You can still pull off that look, Bubbie,” and what the heck. Even without their hechsher I’m not dead yet, by golly. What I am is mighty perplexed.

How can we elders (find me a better word and I’ll use it) slow down, pare down, but continue to live it up? How can we grab life by its wrinkled lapels when we need a grab-bar in the shower? How can we tiptoe (forget running) through the tulips while remaining uber-alert to the peril lurking in a crooked sidewalk? From me you shouldn’t expect answers.

Back to the woman on the cell phone. On the one hand, her decision to have the dentist not pull a tooth apparently makes sense to her. Not enough Return on Investment, as they say in business. On the other hand, this woman may one day ask her family and her docs to pull the plug. It happens. A wise man wrote that on any leg of this trip we can choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it. If you’d rather not go there, don’t. But why not call a spade a spade, especially when the cemetery is the logical next stop on our itinerary. Bette Davis was right when she quipped, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” But Ecclesiastes said it better. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Is this me throwing in the towel? Nah. I often play the Gloomy Gus, but my DNA is stubbornly Mary Poppins. Take, as an example, my adorable Uncle Harry the Duluth bagel baker who chose, at eighty-nine, to buy a new car. “But the car,” he insisted, “gots to have a ten-year warranty.”

Yes, indeedy. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, even in December.