Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fireworks are for Old Folks

I used to tell my friends I’d be the oldest living person at America’s Tri-Centennial Celebration. That would put me at 127 years old. Turns out I’m not as far off as it might have seemed back then.

At the recommendation of the Wall Street Journal, I completed a longevity calculator - four different ones, in fact; and they’re telling me I could live well into my 90’s. All of them.

I guess that’s good news.

What I’d really like to do is get my friends and family to run the numbers on themselves. See, I’m unsure how much fun it will be to reach 99.8 years, as one of the calculators predicts, if I am to be alone with my oatmeal.

Susan, my cat, is 21 years old. I think that’s about 300 in cat years. She moves in slo-mo now, carefully securing solid placement for one paw before lifting the next. Like a sloth.

Her life doesn’t seem so bad though. It’s just that her world has shrunk.

Gone are the days when she roamed our lot stalking squirrels and birds and bugs, tormenting our passive yellow lab, Ted, (whom she’s outlived by nine years), and romping through the house with her favorite leopard skin catnip mouse.

Now she has a meal, a poop, (in one of the multiple boxes strategically placed for her echolocation), and a day sunning on the deck, or napping on a heating pad. We can dream of such an existence.

And she’s virtually weightless.

OMG! Just the thought of becoming so tiny. Especially after being so…not tiny.

I want to be one of those surprising old women. The one who’s still writing, who college kids think is a kick. I don’t just want to say what I think; I want to think funny, incisive, no, piercing thoughts.

Yes, when folks are at their wits’ ends, casting about, wondering “what the heck?” suddenly, something I’ve said will pop into their heads and they’ll feel better. Lately, it’s been: When you’re going through hell, keep going.

I stole that of course. But I’m going to start recording all my clever insights, so by the time I’m 80, let’s say, or 85, I’ll have amassed a veritable panoply of pithy sayings.

The Anderson Cooper of the era, no, the Jon Stewart, will call me up for on-air interviews. Like when David Letterman calls his mom. You won’t see me; you’ll only hear my voice, bright and tinny. I’ll lampoon the newest president, poke fun at democrats and republicans, and make you laugh with my snappy wit. If you’re still alive, that is.

Of course I’ll be a dancer. I’ll be one of those tiny curved women who wear a leotard in front of a mirror, waving her spindly arms in the air, glorious. Feeling as if she looks good. Just like now when, on a rainy day, I play my “Just Dance” CD on the Wii and pretend I can keep up, pretend I rock. I still have the moves.

If I have to go to an old folks home, I’ll be the spark, the one the nurses won’t mind feeding. Maybe a high school girl will volunteer her time as a part of her senior project. She’ll sit with me and tell me about her boyfriend. I’ll make her blush, just as my grandma did me.

But in the short term I have to go to my husband, the man who helped me retire a year ago, and tell him I might live a long, long time --- longer than we expected. He’s already a little suspect of my earnings-free existence. I don’t know if we have 99.8 years’ worth of rent and Top Ramen. I might have to mow lawns to justify the added years.

He’s younger than I am - my husband. And since women typically outlive men, I’ve always thought it would average out and we would die more or less on the same day. I like the concept since it involves no sorrow. I’m already steeped in sorrow for those who’ve gone ahead. Not sure I could bear it if he up and decided to go before me.

He has better genes than I do, so the calculators are probably on his side. But I don’t want to go first.

I want to light a Roman candle at the Tri-Centennial.