An AARP card came in the mail for my wife and I the other day and my wife handed me mine like I’d won a prize. I refused to put it in my wallet for days, leaving it instead on the kitchen table where it waved a withered, age-spotted hand at me every time I walked by. I’d already been moping about the onset of old age lately as I’ve watched my mother-in-law slip into decline. Last year she contracted a low level virus and then fell in her apartment and was taken to the hospital. She came home a few days later, not too much the worse for wear but her memory started to fail. It was as if her fall had snapped a critical neuron, a vital short term memory chip got knocked loose. She has a hard time keeping track of time, whether or not she ate today, nor can she recognize her favorite grandson. Lately, God bless her, her teeth are falling out of her head like so many rusty bolts and screws.
When I asked her how her friends in the ‘home’ were getting on she shrugged. “I have no idea,” she said. “I don’t sit with anyone I know at dinner anymore so I’ve lost track of everyone.” “Why can’t you sit with your friends,” I asked. The old gal looked up, a glum expression planted on her face, the picture of resignation. “Because I can’t remember anything….they make me sit at table sixty-one.” Table sixty-one It turns out is where you’re sent when your memory goes. They separate you from the herd so you don’t upset the other residents by continually asking your meal mates to identify themselves. That’s what ninety looks like. Oh dear.
I have told my son that after 75, if I’m still around but starting to dodder, drool or otherwise degrade myself with the horrible failures flesh and brain, take that baseball bat I keep in the closet for protection, come up behind me and swing for the fences. I know it’ll be a hard task for him to accomplish, we do love one another after all but I’m pretty sure that after he’s had to slip me into a pair of pampers a few times, once I’m slumped over a plate of pureed protein with my teeth dropping out of my head, clattering on the china like so many broken bits of fossilized decay, that Louisville slugger will feel just about right in his hands. The best part is I won’t have a clue what’s coming…I’ll be sitting at table sixty-one!