Don't call me honey.
Don't call me sweetie.
Don't call me darling or dear.
And don't shout in my ear.
I can hear what you're saying quite well.
I believe that your impudent query
Was, Who did you used to be, dearie?
To which I reply, sugarplum, lambie pie,
Go to hell.
I've written at least two blog entries on how abhorrent elderspeak is, but that little ditty says it so much better – and succinctly - than I did.
When my brother arrived for dinner recently, he brought me a slight, little book with a bright, red cover titled, Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations. When I saw the writer's name, I blurted, “Is Judith Viorst still alive?”
Not only alive, she'll be 80 next February. Somehow, for years – well, decades – I lost track of this funny lady whose poetry at one time gave me many laughs and nods of agreement, too. “Exactly,” I would think. The years have not diminished her ability to combine the not-always-so-wonderful facts of life with humor.
At the optometrist's office a couple of weeks, I was told that my cataracts continue to grow, but not so much yet that it is time for surgery. Instead, I got a new prescription for my contact lenses and was shocked at how much clearer the world is with them. Judith again, titled “Revelation?”
When I awoke this morning
The world was radiant with newness.
Indoors and outdoors, all had been scrubbed clean.
The sky had achieved a blue that seemed beyond blueness.
Whites were whiter than white, greens greener than green.
And the edges of everything,
Blades of grass,
Stood apart from the edges of everything else
With exquisite clarity.
How can I explain this? Revelation?
No – successful cataract operation.
And who has not felt this - titled, “One Hallmark of Maturity is Having the Capacity to Hold Two Opposing Ideas in Your Head at Once.”
My scalp is now showing.
My moles keep on growing.
My waistline and breasts have converged.
My teeth resist brightening.
I'm in decline.
It's positively frightening.
A new moon's arrivng.
Sinatra is jiving.
My husband is holding my hand.
The white wine is chilling.
I'm still alive.
It's positively thrilling.
Sometimes, when I walked around my neighborhood in New York City imagining all the people who had lived and died in the buildings I like so much, I would wonder how it could possibly continue without me to see them and think about them after I am dead and gone. Judith Viorst has been thinking something similar in “Missing.”
I think I will miss myself more than anyone else will.
I miss myself now when I wake in the night, too aware,
With my eyes pinned wide-open,
My nails in my palms,
Breathing the darkest of air,
and imagine the world going on,
And on and on and on,
An me not there.
I think I will miss myself more than anyone else will,
Myself as a part of this world that holds all I hold dear.
Since they make no exceptions
The time will arrive
When it's my time to disappear,
And the world will keep going on,
How can the world still go on
If I'm not here?
You don't need to be eighty to enjoy Judith Viorst's takes on elder life. The holidays are nigh upon us and this book would make a terrific stocking stuffer for a friend or two.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: The Commander Salutes Some of Us