How in hell did I get to be 49? I still feel 14 in my head; I am quite immature. Someone farts around me and I laugh. I get much enjoyment watching a dog chase its tail. Cartoons still crack me up. I know every word of every song from Disney's Frozen. (I saw the movie twice, by myself.)
Then I wake up each morning, feeling cadaverous: stiff, I mean. The back, the neck, the shoulders, the knees, my right ankle. Left wrist.
And I am (only?) 48. What will 58 feel like? Seventy? Eighty? Will I be too stiff to stand erect? Will I be one of those humped-back women I see pushing the grocery cart?
Fortunately, my Uncle Neal called me, out of the blue, two nights ago. He was requesting a phone number that I didn't have, but given my reporting acumen, I was able to get what he needed within two minutes. (Sometimes I am truly awesome.)
|Me with Uncle Neal, 2013|
Here's the fortunate part: Uncle Neal, my grandmother's big brother (she died in 1985), told me, proudly, that he turned 89 five days ago. Eighty-nine years old and still capable of using the phone and hearing well enough not to ask, even once, What? I didn't hear you.
After congratulating him and promising to visit--I would bring a sugar-free cherry pie-- I told him I was turning 49 in less than a month. He laughed. (Swear, he laughed!)
"You're a baby," he said.
"Don't feel like a baby," I said.
"Every day's a gift," he said. "When do you think you might come visit? We're here all the time; can't go anywhere."
The "we're" is Uncle Neal plus his beautiful wife, Marcella. Each is home bound and in various stages of life-ending poor health. Marcella had a severe stroke about a year ago. Uncle Neal has congestive heart failure that has advanced. Hospice nurses come three times a week.
"What about the other four days?" I asked.
"We have round-the-clock care," he said. "Twenty-five hundred dollars a week."
I gasped. "A week?" Good God, I thought. Highway robbery.
"It's getting too expensive," he said. "That's a terrific amount of money every week."
I changed the subject. I become outraged and start feeling insane whenever the cost of elder care is being discussed. It's a hot-button topic for me, almost as bad as the immigrant-children issue that's bringing out the mean in people.
"When you were my age, did you think you'd make it to 89?" I asked my uncle.
He laughed again.
"Oh, no. No, no, no."
Suddenly I felt better about my upcoming birthday. Maybe I do have a few good (stiff) years left.