It’s post-Irma, and Ranger and I converse daily about this strange bubble we’re in. We got power back within a day, but there are businesses and homeowners still without, even in this city where the storm veered off and lost interest, hitting at Cat 3 and rattling our junk food supplies and hurricane shutters while we exchanged memories and listened to each other by candlelight.
On one occasion last week I was perceived as a sweet and older grandma in need of help. Three young neighbors came to put up our hurricane shutters, unasked. They just came. Did they know I’d struck out with recruiting handymen? I doubt it. But there they were, and they as much as patted me on the head as they completed the job. They had fun putting the shutters up, as young men on a mission do, for someone like their grandmothers, and I was grateful, but this also reminded me that my age and my sex did not allow us to see each other very clearly, let alone between the rungs of my 16 foot ladder. They wanted to help me out, and they did, but I remain a frail thing that needed help.
Ranger was not alarmed during the storm, remaining quietly attentive to his flock and watching the shutters go up:
“You did get a bit rattled as a result of being helped like that. Why?” He looks at me from his corner of the couch, from under increasingly white eyelashes. Maybe I’m not the only one getting old. But his question gives me pause, and now I must take stock.
Me: “I’ve been puzzling about the whole “aging” thing. I didn’t feel any of it applied to me. I skipped through my ’60s pretty much unscathed. I rolled around on the floor, walked miles every day, worked without flagging. It just never occurred to me that my body was mortal. Then my knee gave out, followed by a new metal replacement. Somehow I expected that I would bounce right out of that and back into how I felt in my ’60’s. Oops. I was blindsided by age, unable to focus, running out of energy by 10:00 am, finding myself hanging onto the kitchen counters when cooking what little I could find the energy to cook. Ranger, it wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t.”
Me: (Continuing) “It’s still not pretty. I am walking better, am finding myself more energetic… like this morning I had enough to pull the orchids out of the ground cover I’d thrown them into several months ago so they wouldn’t just die. They were engulfed in the ground cover, and were themselves gasping for air, like me.”
Ranger: “Yep. I heard you out there, gasping. Now, you mentioned my white eyelashes. Let’s talk about age a bit. At one level you’re put off by the guys who came to put up your shutters, because they cared about their elderly neighbor. You bemoaned the fact that they saw you as living in that box labeled ‘aged’ and you bristle. My question for you: how are you going to go forward with a body that no longer works so well? Are you going to look for fixes so that you can turn back the clock, or are you going to follow my lead and be graceful and thankful about it?”
Me: “It’s complicated, isn’t it? I absolutely needed the knee. I need now to walk ever so carefully so that I don’t fall down. I cannot roll around on the floor with my grandchildren. I cannot get on my hands and knees to scrub the floor. But…. I will look for ways to make up for that. I will hire the housecleaners, expect the grandchildren to clean up after themselves, entertain less and more carefully. I will not be looking to look younger, just more graceful and grey. When my neighbors come and rescue me with my shutters next time I will suggest that when it’s over we will cater a block party in my garage and invite the neighborhood.”
Ranger: “Yes. Maybe you and I have ten years left… you’re going to have more than me, given I’m a dog. But count yourself and your blessings and go on from here into that place of peace and love.”