Tagged: aging

How to enjoy the beach 35 years of cellulite later

IMG_2205Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a middle-aged woman like these two words: Swimsuit Season!

So tell me: Would you rather have your 20 year-old body,  or the current broken down version you drag out of bed each morning? What fool wouldn’t choose the younger, more energetic model? Until my recent trip to the beach, I would have knocked you over to get to the front of that trade-in line.

The last time I took a substantial beach vacation was about 35 years ago. Patty, Renny, Kathy, Gaynelle and I hopped into Patty’s Ford Mustang with our bikinis, hairspray and our bank rolls of money saved from donating plasma. (There’s every parents dream for their kid!) The Knack blared on the stereo while we banged our hairbrushes in time on the dashboard.

I wish I could tell you our trip goal was to appreciate God’s beautiful creation…looking over the waters to marvel at dolphins diving in and out of the surf. Nope. We drove 972 miles to Daytona Beach to do exactly what we did everyday in the spring back home in Indiana—lie out in the sun, listen to music, and drink. But in Florida, we could drink legally while acquiring second-degree burns. So unless a dolphin cruised up shoreside with a tray of Tom Collins on its back, we had bigger fish to fry.

Renny was always the first to crisp up. Wanting to get her money’s worth of sun, she would dip herself in a vat of baby oil and fall asleep on the beach the first day. She spent the remainder of the trip lying on a lounge chair looking like the invisible man in sweats and sunglasses to protect her blistered skin.

Mid-week, we strutted along the beach with our toned, tanned bodies like seaside CEOs, sniggering at the older people ruining our youthful view. Middle-aged women hid their bulges under skirted swimsuits while their husbands sported bermuda shorts, black socks and sandals.

I cringe a little when I think about those trips. But mostly, I smile. We were in a stage of life…a self-centered, irresponsible, potentially dangerous, necessary stage of life. Most of us are not “born older“ like George Bailey, so we do time wasting time, talent and resources.

A couple of weeks ago I climbed into another Ford and headed to the beach. This time it was in a practical, family-friendly Edge owned by my friend, Julie who graciously invited Tisdale and I to join her on a trip to Orange Beach. Since I prefer the mountains to the beach and since I have developed a raging case of “hermit“ these past few years, it took some serious persuading to get me on board.

If they didn’t question the wisdom of my inclusion when I texted the night before our departure to inform them that I didn’t even own a beach towel, they certainly did when we made our first trek out to the water.

They walked out of their rooms looking like page 42 of the Land’s End summer catalog—cute beach bags, classy coverups and straw hats. I walked out of a Kurt Cobain music video with my gym shorts, a baggy, gray tank, and a previous vacation’s souvenir-equivalent of a reusable grocery bag.

IMG_3118I think Julie tried to set up her chair a distance from mine making it plausible for passersby to think we weren’t together. I inched my chair closer to hers. Soon, the great equalizer of our post-child bearing bodies and minds made the experience of lying half-naked in the world a lot more comfortable than it was all those years ago when we actually had the goods to flaunt.

Our conversations drifted toward our children and our hopes and dreams for them as they make their way in the world. We talked about politics, healthcare, bills, and our failing memories. With bladders that hang by a thread, we even stood in the waves and warmed the ocean. It was that or spend the week doing stair laps up to the condo bathroom.

One day nasty weather pushed us off the beach and to the Outlets. Julie and Tisdale force-fed my dressing room with skirts, pants, and dresses. (Guess my beach attire had them worried about what I might wear out to dinner?) The public mirror of three angles of bad was the worst. Is this too short? Too tight? Too young?! Nothing says you’ve aged out of fashion like feeling out-of-place at a chain clothing store. I even caught a mannequin rolling her eyes at me.

Back in the safety of our condo and my boxers, I crawled into a stem of chardonnay and realized how thankful I am to not be the 20 year-old on the beach. I don’t mind my saggy, wrinkled body. I’ve earned it along with the wisdom that comes from every trial, success, and humbling experience of my life.

They all add up to that blob on the beach who can watch the new young thing stroll by like she owns the place, and feel nothing but gratitude.

I’m thrilled to be past her stage of life. I’m sure she looks at me with the same pity I felt for the old couple back in the 80’s. But for one moment when our eyes met, I caught a glimpse of the insecurity and fear that bely the confident beachcomber. Who knew the exposing of our skin was only a cover up?

My college friends, current partners in crime and I are all older now. The exhausting business of keeping up a youthful facade is behind us. It won’t be long before we’re asking, “Can you see my Depends through this suit?”

I’m just happy I can still adjust my cellulite to fit on the lounge chair.

Why the world needs more cookies

Torben Hansen, Flickr, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1ML3OK5
Torben Hansen, Flickr, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1ML3OK5

She was worked up. She’d called our cellphones during the night at least eight or nine times.

How is it that a frail, 88 year-old woman is able to pace anxiously about her room without ever leaving her chair? Yet there she was, and that’s what she was doing. She was jittery. Antsy. Nervously picking at everything within arm’s reach.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

It was a dumb question. She can’t hear. I have to repeat everything at least three times. By the third try, my decibel level approaches that of a rocket launch.

And here’s the truth: even if she could hear, she can’t process. Fronto-temporal dementia makes it impossible for her to (a) corral her thoughts and (b) express them.

For example, she might want to say something about the “calendar” on her wall. All her disintegrating mind can think of is “picture” or “square.” By the time those words get to her mouth, they’ve become “calter” and “squomper.” Not even Dr. Seuss could have a meaningful conversation with her.

She started babbling…something about two young men taking her out of the room.

“Two men? What did they look like?”

“I don’t know.” (This was the only coherent statement she made during our whole visit.)

“They took you out of your room? Out the door there?”

“No,” she said. “Here!” Now she was adamant.

I asked a few more questions, and got a stream of gobbledygook in return.

The next ten minutes were awful, like watching a person cycle through the first four stages of grief in no particular order. Depression. Anger. Denial. Bargaining. (She can never quite get to acceptance; can anyone blame her?)

What do you do in those situations? What can you possibly say? I’ll tell you what I said.

“I’m so sorry, Mom. Here, have a cookie.”

I handed her a little Ziploc filled with Oreo thins. She fumbled the bag open and proceeded to scarf down a couple—pretty much like I’d gobbled up her homemade chocolate chips or oatmeal cookies during my growing up years, after a particularly bad day at school.

“Are they good?”

“They’re nice,” she said, with a hint of a smile.

Thirty minutes later, walking to the parking lot, I was left to wonder: Did, God forbid, something happen to my mother in the night? There are some creepy weirdos in our world—and it’s an ever-changing skeleton crew after 7 p.m. Or did someone just come by after supper and offer (maybe a little too forcefully?) to take Mom to an evening program in the dining room?

Andrew Magill, Flickr, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1R26omL
Andrew Magill, Flickr, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1R26omL

It’s entirely possible she dozed off and had a bad dream. Or maybe she saw a disturbing scene on her TV (which stays on 24/7 and on which she thinks she sees our boys, “all the time”)? Possibly she recalled some snippet of an incident from her past and merged it with an event in the present moment? (Hey, our minds play such tricks on us even when they’re healthy, right?)

I don’t know about any of that. Obviously, it’s time for yet another meeting with the nursing home people. More questions about staff, the revolving night shift, security cameras, protocols.

Meanwhile I’m left to ask: Why, God? What’s the point? Your purposes—the shaping of a heart, the renewing of a mind—how is any of this possibly taking place in the life of a woman who can’t even remember she was married for six decades, who doesn’t know what a birthday is? If it’s my sorry soul you’re hoping to transform, could you choose another method? Please don’t put her through hell to make me holy.

I know that if this once prim and proper “southern belle of a woman” could see herself in her urine-stained La-Z boy, she’d be beyond mortified. She’s lived a full life. Now she spends most of every day trying to crawl out of her wrinkled old skin. She’s utterly miserable. Why won’t God let her go home?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions.

I need a cookie.