I’ve been thinking about the end of the line. Not that my family is driving me any crazier than usual, just that I’ve been exposed to too many black balloons. A visual oxymoron if there ever was one.
Over the last few years, numerous friends and acquaintances have hit the big 4 0, some the bigger 5 0. They often receive salutations stating they are, “Over the Hill.” I wonder. When I’m forty, I will still have two-thirds of a mortgage to pay off, two children to raise through their teens and help with post-secondary education, and more than half my job to finish before retirement. I thought “Over the hill” meant I could coast for a while!
I sincerely hope it doesn’t mean things go downhill from then on. I’m already aware that there is little I can do to stop the onslaught of aging. Every time my husband comes home from the barber, I am reminded of the ticking clock. For some reason, sitting in the barber chair gives him more grey hair.
My memory isn’t what it used to be, but then it never was much to begin with. Still, I used to forget people’s names eight to ten years after loosing contact with them. This shrunk to four or five years, then two or three. Before I knew it, I was forgetting the names of co-workers and neighbours in one season (winter counts as two seasons – early winter and I can’t believe it’s still here winter). Now, after a long weekend, I have to look up my boss’s name on his door plate.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes believed the mind had a finite space for memory, (like a computer). As the years pass, I seem to be downgrading to a smaller and smaller hard drive. I can’t control whether my brain is on SAVE or DELETE. SEARCH FOR FILES keeps coming up CONNECTION LOST. Files are cluttered with junk I can’t erase, like the theme songs for The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, and Green Acres, none of which I’ve watched during my children’s lifetimes! Important new information, on the other hand, such as my bank PIN number, the difference between RAM and ROM, and my children’s shoe size can not be stored for later retrieval. I often feel that my brain is becoming as obsolete as the old PET computers, large, slow, and taking up space with very little inside. Not at all what I expected would come age.
Some societies venerate the elderly for their experience and wisdom. I’m a little relieved ours doesn’t since they might suspect I’m a fraud. I’ll never be one of those senior citizens who can tell you what the weather was like a certain summer 30 years ago and the world events at the time. By March, I can barely remember ever experiencing a summer.
Perhaps I have selective memory. My husband thinks so. I can remember exactly how many times he has thrown wet items into the bottom of the laundry hamper in spite of my requests. I can remember how much money he had at the beginning of the week and what he was “supposed” to spend it on. I can remember what he gave me for my last eighteen birthdays and whether he picked it out himself. I can always remember how many days it took between his agreeing to do a house chore and its completion.
Still, I’m holding together a little better than my friend I will call Max. He offered to drive the car around to the front of the plaza so that his wife would not have to carry her parcels through the parking lot. He brought the children out to the van, loaded them up, and drove home, whereupon the oldest child asked, “Where’s Mom?”
After all is said and done, it is more important what people remember of me after I’ve crossed the final hill than whether I mastered my instant teller. I hope they remember me with a smile. Just to make sure, I’m looking for the perfect one-liner to leave ’em laughing. What could be better than a joke for my final words? An epitaph can be a perpetual one-liner, something like, “I’d rather be in Paris,” but it’s best said aloud. One problem though. What if some eager intern revives me and I have to do it all again? I might not have a back-up joke. Oh well, I can always claim I forgot.
Published 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.