Lum: In which I become 80
December 21, 2016
For years I've been blaming every mistake and malapropism on my advanced age. "I'm almost 80, you know," was my excuse for everything from a tongue-trip to a bad bridge bid and today, much to my astonishment, it has come true. I am 80. How in the hell did that happen?
My mother said I came out screaming. The doctor said, "What's the matter, little girl, don't you like this world you've been born into?" And until I found my planet in Aspen (not to be confused with today's frippery), I can't say I was thrilled with the world and certainly never expected to spend 80 years on it.
All of the cliches are true — time goes by faster and faster until holidays are a blur, you realize that your youngest child is over 50, loved ones are the most important things, you shrink and start falling apart — you never knew you had so many bits to (this is the old person term for it) degenerate.
Eyes, teeth, knees, back, ears, lungs, bones, dying brain cells and a hammer toe that looks like a crossed finger. Could we at least do without the hammer toe? Hey?
My friends and I celebrated with a pre-birthday party on Thanksgiving so that I could ease into this new decade, a tactic that I recommend because it wasn't, you know, real. Now that it is real it doesn't seem so because I've already been there, done that.
Do any of you other seniors have trouble remembering what year it is? I was good for 2000, but after that it turned into an increasingly rapid spinning blur. 2010, 2013, the numbers don't even sound right and by the time you've mastered one you're two behind.
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Be forewarned that if you ever end up in a hospital that's one of the things they will ask you: What year is it?
There are advantages to the aging process. The more you shrink, the less you can see of yourself in the bathroom mirror. The faster the time goes by, the sooner it is over. Imagine if your 70s and 80s took as long as your first 20 years, something close to an eternity.
Time plays another trick —you're really 18 in the Halloween costume of an accident victim. You really can stand up straight, run around the block, remember the title of the book you are reading. You understand that perfectly well, but no one else does. Where did that walker come from? I don't need no stinkin' walker.
I was delighted that the death law passed in Colorado and sorry to see Aspen Valley Hospital already parsing its phrases. We're supposed to be the cutting edge, the leaders of the pack, and the vote was unambiguous. People who are suffering should be as able to get off the Earth as their pets, without having to fly to Lima, Peru, for the drugs to do the job.
I am not at all suicidal, but it is a comfort to know that I don't have to go out the same way I came in: screaming.
Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks she's too old to be an orphan. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com.
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