Tag Archives: Aging

Snowball in Hell


I just got home from a luncheon where I was surprised to discover I’d received the 2017 Ojo del Lago Award for outstanding literary achievement in the category of best fiction for a short story, “Snowball in Hell.”  I don’t believe I’ve ever published it on my blog as it was done as a timed writing for my writing group in La Manzanilla. Since it loosely follows the prompt for today, which is “tentative,” I’ll stretch things a bit and publish it today:

Snowball in Hell

“There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell,” she snarled at him as he beat a hasty retreat out the door. Everyone knew she was a feisty old dame, but she still felt compelled to prove the fact often enough to remind herself of the truth of it. Lately, she’d been feeling herself mellow. Growing teary-eyed at the sight of kittens on YouTube videos—having little heart-flutters when she glimpsed other women’s grandchildren in photos on cell phones.

When she stood back to consider this strange new course of events, she could only view it as she might view a mysterious disease—look at the symptoms, try to figure out a cure. Surely, being around children or kittens might help. Nothing like reality to pop the bubble of a fancy. Kibbles underfoot and gumdrops in the sheets could surely cancel out cute. Although she had no experience with such cures, since they’d never been necessary before.

Jake had wanted kids long ago. Actually, he’d gone on wanting them for a good twenty years—as long as she might have provided them—but her refusal had been as determined as her response today, when he had asked if she perhaps would be interested in a Caribbean cruise. Her on a cruise ship with old men in madras shorts and women in beauty-parlor hairdos? She tried to think of what she would do on a boat. She had taken a mental oath years before to never play shuffleboard and bridge made her dyspeptic. She’d discovered this in college, waiting for Karen Schuller to play her hand, drumming her long perfectly polished fingernails on the bridge table, screwing her little red cupid box mouth into a perplexed knot.

“Play the damn card!!!” she’d screamed internally, afraid that if the bitch ran one more finger tattoo on the table that she’d slam her fist down on that perfect hand. It seemed easier to give up bridge than to give up the aggression she felt every time she heard the sharp drumming and viewed that pensive mouth.

Cruise ships, she was sure, were full of Karen Schullers, all grown up, with fingernails an inch longer, lips forty years more wrinkled. And they made you eat things like lobster and crabs—giant underwater bugs that no one would ever convince her were meant for consumption. But the truth of it was, that aside from these irritations, being cooped up in a cabin with Jake for a week or more must didn’t carry any attraction for her any more. The old coot got stranger by the day. Just last night, on the couch, watching Ray Donovan, he had tried to hold her hand. Forty years married and like a teenager, furtively reaching over. They’d been done with all that syrup years ago, but now, why was he thinking hand holds and Caribbean cruises?

What month was it? She tried to sort out a reason. Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas––not that they ever observed any of them. Finally, she gave up. There was no accounting for old men in their first states of senility. She would just have to put up with it, but she didn’t have to go along. She settled herself more solidly into her chair and grabbed the remote, switching on the TV connected to her computer. Millie Perkins had Facebooked her another puppy/bunny video. She tried to resist, but found herself moving the mouse over to the arrow. The bunny had loppy ears and the puppy had very long hair and a little vest. She clicked off the TV quickly when Jake came into the room, but didn’t greet him.

“Clara?” he asked tentatively. She pretended not to hear. “Honey?” In his hand was an envelope that looked sort of crumpled and a bit dusty, like he’d been hanging onto it for awhile. “Remember your last checkup? The results came a few days ago.” She looked up at him, and his face looked soft––like the face of the bunny. Something was written on it––a different sadness that she hadn’t seen before. He sat down beside her on the couch and risked once more taking her hand. And this time she let him.

http://chapala.com/elojo/index.php/218-articles-2017/september-2017/3872-snowball-in-hell

The prompt today was tentative

Patterning Sunset

jdbphoto

Patterning Sunset

Nights out I once found glorious,
exciting and uproarious,
I now just find laborious.

Without a doubt,


it is more fun

when day is done
to mime the way the sun

goes out.

Instead of donning dancing gown
and going to light up the town,
to drink and dance, to get it down

’til I perspire,

I brush my teeth, gargle and cough.
My clothes I shed, my shoes I doff.
I find the light switch, turn it off,

and just retire.

 

For a bit of a contrast to this poem you may want to go here:
https://judydykstrabrown.com/2017/02/10/first-steps/

The prompt today was glorious.

Grandpa’s Lament

Version 3

Grandpa’s Lament

Oh to be nimble, unfettered and young––
heedless, with yesterday’s breath on my tongue.
Scuffed shoes unpolished and hair all awry,
with nary a reason for white shirt or tie.

Chucking small stones, shooting rubber bands.
Gritty black fingernails, scandalous hands
sporting sand from the sandbox or silky black loam
from digging for earthworms or sliding on home.

I’d like to be lithesome and agile and spry––
a long life in front of me before I die;
but my years are numbered, my life’s nearly over.
Gone is my past as a rambler and rover.

I sit on my porch and watch younger men
take off for those places I’ve already been;
knowing my wild years are too far behind me.
I’m an Energizer bunny with no one to wind me.

Maddeningly, although I know I still dream, I forget them the moment my eyes open. Instead, I usually wake up with the first line of a poem on my mind. In this case, I used it as the second line of this morning’s poem.

Mame

Version 2

Mame

Compose a ballad for Auntie Mame,
famous of body and of name,
and make the music slow and sad
as we revere the moves she had;
for all those parts she chose to wiggle
eventually began to jiggle.

Those shocking movements that won her fame
were finally ones she had to tame,
and all the fellows who once came
to see her at her sexy game
seem to have vanished, to have flown
once her parts moved on their own.

No matter that she lived by art—
how wide her fame, how big her heart—
once revered parts began to swing,
I fear her peeping Toms took wing.
What wives saw as depravity,
I fear she lost to gravity.

Yet years that held her in their sway
could not take her spirit away.
In some assisted living facility,
she still displays agility.
Her movements, true, may be much slower
and certain displayed parts much lower.

Her scarves are larger and tightly wrapped
where once they fluttered and they flapped,
but still admirers hoot and holler
and grace her g string with a dollar.
So sing her praises far and wide.
She’s still the tart she was inside.

The prompt was jiggle.

Where Time Goes

 Version 2

Where Time Goes 

They have not vanished without a trace.
Past years are written on your face.
They web your skin like finest lace,
its former smoothness to efface,
and write a story in its place.

The prompt today was replacement.

Everything Shall Fade Away

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How cruel of life at end of day
that all of us should fade away,
one head going hoary white,
ready to give up the fight
while all around it, fresher shoots
sturdier and less hirsute
push upward in the dawning morn,
the meadow to freshly adorn.

The prompt word today was “Faded.”

Vigor Trigger

Version 3

Vigor Trigger

What once passed for vigor, I fear has turned into a case of fine acting. If I walk with energy, it is a forced energy expressed in spurts in situations where once I ran. I hope this can be attributed to the dignity of my age; but when I see others my age outpacing me, the jig is up and I am revealed for what I am—someone who, in spite of what I have always believed would happen, is wearing out and falling into that part of the life cycle that includes wrinkling up and slowing down. Ugh. I hate to admit it, but perhaps if I do it will be a type of therapy and in confronting it, it will go away—or at least it will lessen in its effect.

The truth is that I fear acting old more than I fear looking old. I hate it that I struggle to get up from a kneeling position and that I can in no way do it gracefully. I put both hands against the floor in front of me, raise my butt in the air and walk up to my hands—only way it seems possible without a lot of grunting and straining. In animal behavior, I would probably appear sexy as I do so, but I do not delude myself that any human being would find it so.

An additional truth to face now that I am 69 is that I am turning into my mother. Having to do more than one thing at once befuddles me and sometimes even one thing at a time is a bit confusing. Numbers don’t behave as they once did. I add and subtract and multiply and divide just fine. I grew up in a time before computers and handheld devices, so I’m used to doing functions mentally that youth finds better relegated to machines. The problem is in the interrelation of functions––just how to convert dimensions expressed in feet and tenths of feet to feet and inches, to enable me to equate it to the past when all dimensions were expressed as such. Why describe in tenths of feet which are traditionally divided into twelve parts, not ten? Why not just convert to a decimal system entirely, which I could then translate easily to inches and then to feet and inches?

The world is no longer my oyster. Devices get smaller and smaller as my eyes get worse and worse. I can’t wait for all of today’s young programmers and systems designers to get to be 60 and to try to make use of the apps they’ve designed primarily for phones so tiny that you can barely find the phone, let alone make out pages as small as playing cards. And don’t even get me started on the designers of medicine labels!!! If it isn’t bad enough that they are in size 2 font, they then make them white on yellow or gray on blue so it is impossible to read them no matter what size they are. What are they thinking? The clincher was my optometrist’s card that was primarily empty space with the writing squeezed into one corner, so small that I doubt it could be read by anyone­­–glasses or no glasses, and remember, people come to optometrists primarily because they can’t see in the first place! In addition, it was one of those cards impossible to look at because the two colors used not only made it difficult to read, but tended to affect one’s astigmatism, or at the very least one’s sense of good taste.

I must admit that I have never been an athletic person. Zumba, yoga and pool aerobics have been my most successful and enduring modes of exercise. But what I have done, I have always done with great vigor. I work hard, in the past did all my own housework and gardening and have been a bit of a workaholic. But very recently, I find myself wearing out faster, sneaking off to a hidden corner to huff and puff a bit or lie down for a ten-minute rest. I find myself getting a bit testier and less patient when things go wrong, but blessedly usually express my frustration (aloud) primarily to myself.

It occurred to me earlier this year, however, that passing neighbors can probably hear me when I shout “Idiot” to myself—or worse. Or, when I yell at the dogs to stop barking or stop jumping up. “Judy, you’re worse than the dogs!” a friend sputtered, shaking his head one day as I roared “Frida, Diego, Morrie–stop!!!” as they executed a deafening chorus of deep barks when I arrived home and opened the garage door. So I guess that is one place where my energy remains unabated. When it comes to expressing myself, I have great vocal cords. You could even say I’m still capable of a vigorous rejoinder!!!

 

The prompt word today is “vigor.”