Over the years I have collected a wide assortment of return address labels. Some of them I bought, but most of them were sent to me as a “thank-you” for making donations to various charities. These are stuffed into a basket on a shelf where I keep greeting cards, writing paper and envelopes. One day last week I was struck with the realization that if I use one return address label every day of my remaining life, even if I live to be very old, I will not deplete my supply of return address labels.
That thought stayed with me, not constantly and not in a morbid way but as a matter of fact. I began thinking of other belongings of mine that will survive longer than I will: pots and pans, my wedding dress, hundreds if not thousands of photos, and probably even some of the rarely used spices in my spice drawer. (Does anyone ever empty a box of marjoram?)
Although I feel very much the same way I felt 20 or 30 years ago, it is true that physically I am not as strong and steady as I once was. I cannot “show” my granddaughter how to hopscotch or jump rope, and I even had trouble demonstrating for her how to play jacks, which surprised me. I didn’t even get past my onesies.
I fell last week when I tripped over one toy on my living room floor and landed sharply on another toy. When my daughter saw the resulting bruise on my leg she said, “You know, Mom, falls can be disastrous in people of your age. Promise me that you will wear your Yaktrax over your shoes if you go out onto the snow or ice.”
I have read that one’s mental acuity begins decreasing after the age of 18. At least I think I read that somewhere. I don’t remember as well as I used to. I do know that I am not quite as sharp as I once was. While singing along to kids’ songs on a CD with my grandson the other day, I realized that I can no longer sing “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea.” Try as I might I could not consistently remember that there is a smile on the flea on the hair on the wart on the toe on the foot on the leg on the frog on the knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.
Just out of curiosity, I ordered a test to take to see if I am showing early signs of dementia. I saw the envelope containing the test in a stack of mail on my kitchen counter. I said, “Oh, look. My dementia test came in the mail.” My son looked up from his phone and said, “That’s the same thing you said yesterday, Mom.”
Are there compensations for the losses we experience as we grow older? Where is the wisdom that living many years is supposed to bring? Where is the honor that the young are to show to the aged? Where is the serenity that is supposed to come to those who live long, fruitful lives? More importantly, where is my cell phone?
My granddaughter asked me the other day, “Grandma, did they have cars back in the olden days when you were a kid?” I smiled, gave her a hug and said, “I can’t remember.”