As a kid, when I lived in Portland, my brother, sister, and I used to make fun of this ‘old lady’ across the street, who was always sweeping her lawn. It was snow she swept away in the winter and leaves the rest of the year. Well, now I’m the one doing the sweeping. I’m constantly sweeping fir needles and itty-bitty cones as well as bigger cones and alder leaves off my driveway. Actually, that’s what it looks like, but I’m mostly sweeping out the drain in front of my garages that fills up on every windy day with debris that ends up forming a dam when it rains. But the young couple across the road probably sees me as a fussbudget old lady obsessed with sweeping her driveway. To me, it’s just one of those chores that goes along with living in a yard filled with tall trees.
But there are other situations that make me think that I really am turning into an old lady. Some of these have been creeping up on me, but this past year and a half is when I really noticed that it’s not just one or two things. It’s a whole bunch of stuff. So I refer to this period as the time I became an old lady.
I don’t move very fast any more––I was always the one to charge past ‘old folks’ on the sidewalk and ease around them with my shopping cart in stores and avoid going to Freddies on the first Tuesday of the month when it’s seniors’ day. Well, since December when I’ve had this leg problem, I’m the one folks have been easing around. I walk s-l-o-w-l-y. I hate it.
I don’t take chances like I used to––I used to charge down stairs and up stairs and run under the old garage door after I’d hit the close button and scoot along the edge of the roof of the house as I cleaned out the drains or stand on ladders and reach while painting or pruning. But not any more. I realize that most home accidents happen on stairs or ladders and falling off roofs. So on stairs, I’m conscious of each step. If I’m carrying something, I two-step each step. My new garage door openers won’t let me skinny under them, and now I can’t move fast enough anyway. And the past couple of years, I’ve hired someone to clean my gutters and do major pruning and painting. . . . But I still climb out on the roof to wash windows and skylights.
I tire and need naps––I got my energy back last fall and then I developed a problem with one leg that causes it to not straighten totally and lots of ordinary movements cause pain. It makes it hard to get up and sit down and to walk or just to even move around. I’ve had a dozen physical therapy sessions and when I do the suggested exercises, it helps. Because it’s more difficult to do anything that requires movement, I expend a lot of energy and take forever. So if I work on a project for a couple of hours, I ‘m beat and need to take a break. Not just a 10-minute break, but more like an hour. And if it involves working in the yard for a couple hours in the morning and then a couple in the afternoon, I’ll need a long nap before dinner, also. I used to be able to work outside all day. I remember telling a friend that I never got tired. (Remember TB.) Ha! Not any more, I’ve become . . . You get the picture.
Health becomes main topic of conversation––I used to get so disgusted with ‘old folks’ cause all they’d talk about was their health or their kids health or their friends health! Well, I’m finding that happens more and more with me. When I had cancer, I expected it. Now I want to move on. But the conversations are still about health, if not mine, then whomever I’m talking to. And I shouldn’t be surprised cause more and more of my friends have had cancer or heart attacks or bad knees or hips or shoulders that need replacing. So I should just accept it as being part of this stage of life.
I regularly check the obit column––Just like my dad used to do, I check to see if someone I know has died. And that’s more and more often the case. A couple of weeks ago, there were three someones I knew. Many of the people I know that are dying are older than me. I expect that. But now folks my age and younger are dying. That’s a whole new ballgame.
I turned totally gray––Then there are the usual things that happen. When my hair came back, it was totally gray. All the brown was gone. Sigh!
My memory doesn’t work like it used to––For the last few years, I’ve had a hard time remembering names—names of movies, songs, books, and people that I’ve met more than once. I’ve still got it when it comes to remembering appointments etc. But I should. I write everything down. I have a calendar on the wall and a dayplanner in my purse. I make lists of what I want to do the next day before I go to bed at night. I write down everything I want to get at the grocery store before I leave the house. And before running errands, I write down everywhere I want to go. If I didn’t, . . .
All my life, I’ve looked and acted younger than my age. And I’ve always done most everything for myself (with the exception of when I really needed help during my battle with cancer). I was really proud to be a “do it yourselfer.” But now at 74, it seems those days are over. People are calling me Ma’am, and asking if I need help taking the groceries to my car. Makes me want to punch them! And after 30 years of taking my recycling and garbage to the dump, I’ve finally been asked if I’d like some help by the folks that work there. I guess, instead of responding, “Hell no, I can do it!” under my breath with a louder more polite, “No, thank you!” I should get off my do-it-yourselfer high-horse and consider saying, “Why, yes, that would be nice!” . . . Hmm! Not sure I’m there yet! It’s not easy turning into an old lady!