The golden years of life are between ages 18 and whatever age you can get to and still be able to think semi-clearly as well as move the majority of your body parts. See, I don’t like to be told what to do… (Yes, having that as my motto, makes me the ideal employee) …and for the first 18 years of our lives we’re constantly told what to do. Not only do people have the right to tell us what to do, they’re obligated by law to tell us what to do. “Put on that seat belt.” “No, you can’t go to the mall alone with your friend: You’re both 8 years old.” You’re told what to wear at 4: “You can’t wear a bathing suit outside in winter” and what not to wear at 16: “That’s the style? Whatever it is, you’re not leaving the house with those hanging out.”
Then we get a lull. From age 18 until 75 we get a reprieve, a breather, a short window of opportunity in which to think for ourselves: Freedom. And, if we’re smart, we milk it for all it’s worth. We can have key lime pie for breakfast. (Did it yesterday). We can watch a show late at night without anyone telling us to turn off the TV and go to bed even though we’re on our third round of the “fall asleep & pop back up” merry-go-round and have no idea where we are let alone what we’re watching. We can wear what we want. (Walmart shoppers excepted.) We can sleep with nothing on or everything in our closet. We can talk to strangers. We can run with scissors. We can lick dip right out of the container in the privacy of our own home. We can leave all the lights on in the house all day. We can drink right from the faucet. We can swim 3 minutes after we eat or even while we’re still chewing. We don’t have to brush our hair or our teeth. No one can make us make our bed. No one can make us go to school. No one can make us go to work. We can just call up and say to the boss: “You know what. I really don’t feel like doing this anymore. Bye.”
Then we turn about 75. And the nightmare starts again. A mere 70 years ago they were telling us we couldn’t eat glue, crayons, snot or lint. Now they’re telling us we can’t eat salt, fat, sugar or anything referred to as “delicious”. And suddenly everybody wants to know about our bowel movements again: When, how often, do they look like gum balls or balloon animals? Serpents or giraffes? They haven’t been a topic of conversation since we learned to wipe from front to back… And we definitely shouldn’t be driving. They won’t take us anywhere but we shouldn’t be driving. And we can’t live where we want. They don’t want us to live alone but they don’t want us to live with them either.
My sister-in-law suggested that my father-in-law check out a senior living place near her. He says it’s a nursing home. She says it’s nice. The first day he was there, they sat him at a table with one of the residents. She introduced herself: “Hi. I’m Gloria Marshall. I’m 96. I’m done living. Who needs this anymore?” I never imagined in my wildest dreams that my father-in-law would ever be the most upbeat person at any given meal. Poor Mrs. Marshall. If only she could escape for a while to run with scissors and drink right from the faucet, she might feel different.