It’s much more fun to talk with older friends about an experience of flirtation than it is about one’s flatulence. Older people compare lists of meds, and tell what joints have been replaced, but we often keep to ourselves other experiences of aging, such as erectile dysfunction and diapers.
Recently, a nice-looking guy standing in line at Stork’s gave me a huge smile as if he knew me. I never know if the smiles I get are because the person may have appreciated something I wrote, or if they’re just friendly people. But I always smile back.
It was fun to have a middle-aged gay man tell me that I have beautiful legs. I’ve never been told that, and for a second, I felt special and desirable. But the 10-second fantasy ended when I recalled having an extraordinary husband, and erectile dysfunction.
When we’re with our young nephews, age 35 to 55, Ray and I try to prepare them for what to expect when they hit 60 or 70. We talk about prostate cancer, back pain, and of how it’s harder to lose weight. We hope to be making the aging process less surprising, but all of what we say is irrelevant to them at this time in their lives. Talking about our farting is funny to them, mainly because we make light of it. But they can’t get their heads around occasionally being in diapers.
When I was their age, my focus was on my work and the smooth running of our home. I cared about clothes, but was far more interested in how the house appeared. Ray gave me free reign on decorating, and he kept me looking stylish for my corporate presentations on LGBTQ issues.
It all seems so long ago, as we now find ourselves occasionally in those aforementioned diapers because of irritable bowel syndrome. Our days of traveling the world are over, so our well-worn leather Hartmann suitcases are less likely to be complemented, as are our clothes. What Ray and I get the most positive feedback on is our 30-year-old red Mercedes convertible and our full heads of gray hair.
Ray is in constant pain because of his spine, and bad knee, about which he rarely complains. My sciatica prompts me to complain all the time.
The worst part of aging for me is the memory loss, both short term and long term. I feel embarrassed not to remember people’s names. Ray will ask, as we watch a movie that’s set in a foreign country, “We stayed in that hotel. Do you remember?” No.
Despite it all, I love my life. I sat outside today with my eyes closed, listening to the music created by the wind chimes, and the splashing of water in the nearby fountain. I thanked the Spirit for a lifetime with Ray. He’s stooped over, and I’m shrinking, but our daily dose of unconditional love makes everything else irrelevant.