Lum: No time to retire |

Lum: No time to retire

Su Lum

A few years ago I bought a powerful magnifying lamp so that I could manage the weekly maintenance of the microscopic parts of my hearing aids. I bought the lamp in response to my ear doctor, Terry Burke, discovering one of those tiny parts in my ear canal.

It almost goes without saying that I’m half blind as well as half deaf (patch, patch, patch) and my eye condition doesn’t allow for bi-focals. How I miss my bi-focals. I spend half the day chasing around my two pairs of distance glasses — one for inside and one with prisms for driving ­— and two pairs of prescription readers (one for the computer), which all look identical.

The magnifying light is excellent for reading fine print, but the downside of it is that it magnifies my hands as well as the parts of the hearing aids. After a certain age, you don’t want to be scrutinizing or magnifying your body parts, a category that definitely includes hands and feet.

My main defense against aging is to avoid mirrors. As I shrink, the few (three) mirrors in baths and bedroom show me only from mid-nose up. If you see me with my shirt inside out feel free to give me a friendly heads up.

Thirty years ago, my daughter Skye put up a 7- by 3-foot mirror on the kitchen wall, which had the effect of visually doubling the space of that small room. It was a hellish job requiring several strong men and glue that I hope hasn’t reached its shelf life — it is still there.

Did I lie saying that I only have three mirrors? I claim innocence. For the first three or four years that huge mirror was up, I jumped out of my skin every time I went into the kitchen, thinking someone was in the house. Now I don’t even see it, never look at it or think of it as a mirror. But if I go into a department store — loaded with mirrors — it’s, “Whoa! Yikes. Who is that?”

Anyway, I’ve improved at not looking at my hands when diddling with the hearing aids but I have not mastered the art. There is always the unpleasant discovery of new age spots, now creeping farther afield.

One day recently I relaxed my vigilance and saw, under the lamp, that my hands had grown translucent. This is a step beyond the ropy hand and arm veins that spring up like a thicket of live snakes. This is when your skin turns transparent; you are suddenly covered not with skin — however thin — but with Saran wrap.

Part of me thinks, “Why didn’t anyone warn me about all this?” but another part realizes it was in my face all the time but I chose to ignore it, like I do the mirrors. My grandmothers both lived well into their 90s (on a diet of daily bacon fat, no exercise and second-hand smoke) and my mother died at 99.

I was surrounded by old age, but part of the denial process is thinking, “That will never happen to me.” And old people die so they never get a chance to have the last laugh when it does happen to everyone.

I never knew how much work it would be to get old. I’m dealing with an eye condition that feels like ground glass under my lids for which sweet Amy Cecil recommends scrubbing my eyes with baby shampoo and using hot packs twice a day, and I can hardly fit it into my schedule of physical therapy and doctors’ visits and pill-taking (dawn, morning, every four hours, evening, night) and keeping them straight and refilled as they change the generic names and shapes and colors, and playing bridge online every Thursday afternoon, and going to the grocery stores and the Saturday market, and going to the post office because I haven’t rerouted everyone to my street address, and cooking messing with my endless oxygen supplies, and listening to books on (“The Girl on the Train”) so I lose track of time, and oh my gosh another column is due already and did I wash my hair today?

I didn’t know that retirement would be a full-time job.

Su Lum is a long-time local who enjoyed Ralph Melville’s 90th birthday party, a congregation of geezers (of which I am a member) in various states of decrepitude but still laughing. I mean, you gotta laugh. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at