9

I
I’m the eighth and newest member
of the Yarborough bridge club
Learning to play is slow going
we only meet once a month
Ann keeps talking about
her trips and her kids and her grandkids
while I try to remember
if the queen played yet
and if I’m on the board or in my hand

II
There is this lame saying
bridge and sex are alike because
if you don’t have a good partner
you’d better have a good hand
I see eight hands
with swollen, knobby knuckles and liver spots
Two of them are mine
and I lose count and I wonder
how I ever became so very middle-aged

III
Last night Ann forgot what time we were meeting
when we got there
she was still making dessert
(because you always serve a dessert when you host bridge)
she was flustered
and sent Cindy to the grocery
to buy nuts and candies for the tables
When I was dummy I set the bowls out
because she forgot
Sometimes we worry about Ann
but she’s still a better bridge player than I am

My Toes are Betraying Me

This started out to be a piece called “Why High Heels Should be Banned,” but titles are tricky and it’s important to get a good one.  So I thought about what I really wanted to address with this post.  And while I would sort-of like high heels to be banned, I decided that even more than that, I wanted to complain.  And if it serves as a cautionary tale to anyone to not wear high heels that would be a bonus.  Actually, if anyone other than me reads this it will be a bonus.

So, I’d like to start by saying that ageing sucks.  But, given the alternative I’ve had to refine that sentiment, because ageing does not suck as much as death, in the vast majority of instances.  So what I actually mean is that many of the changes that happen to our bodies as we age suck.  And the funny thing is, you think you know about getting old.  But there are all these little things that start happening that no one ever mentions.  Until now.  So, here are some under-reported problems of ageing:

Everyone knows your eyesight gets worse.  Especially close up vision.  We all know about “cheaters” (The glasses, not the rotten spouses. If you know firsthand about them, sorry. But I digress.)  What I didn’t realize is that you also need more light to see as you age.  I first noticed this while driving at night.  And I was so clueless about it being an effect of ageing I actually took my car in to the shop and told them there was something wrong with my car’s headlights.  The mechanic said, “Oh we’ll just re-aim them.  Sometimes headlights need to be adjusted after a while.”  And I thought, “Good.  That’s sorted.”  But when I picked up the car the young mechanic seemed puzzled when he told me there was nothing wrong with the lights.

And where do I start with hair? My friend LuAnn, who is an amazing writer (that’s amazing in a good way) wrote a brilliant essay on ageing and hair, so if I’ve stolen any of this from her I apologize, but it’s not on purpose.  It’s because another of the many delights of ageing is that your memory gets faulty. Ok, with that said, grey hair wasn’t ever an issue for me.  I always knew it was my destiny.  Both my grandmas had gorgeous white hair, and I found my first grey strand at age eighteen.  Yes, that’s right, eighteen.  How would you like to be a freshman in college and find that?  It might or might not have driven me to drink.  But by now I have accepted that grey roots are my lot in life (cause I haven’t completely resigned myself to grey hair, yet).   What I didn’t realize is that grey hair is insane, and even color can’t cover that crazy.  It boinks up randomly, defying the laws of gravity.  (Think of the Albert Einstein posters.  He wasn’t a careless groomer, that’s just how grey hair behaves.)

Another thing I didn’t realize about ageing hair, or rather one’s hair as one ages, because hair itself is dead.  (Don’t think about that too much, or it becomes a bit disturbing.) Anyway, what I didn’t know was that my hair would get thin.  Even my eyebrow and eyelash hairs.  Really God?  Really?  Eyebrows?  I spent so much time and energy in my teens and 20’s trying to restrain my eyebrows.  Now I’m painting them in because they have become so sparse and light. Or have migrated to my chin.

And as if that wasn’t enough, now my toes have betrayed me. (Yes, I’m finally getting to that.) Or maybe I betrayed my feet by wearing pointy-toed high heels when I was young and foolish(er).  Honestly, I know those kind of shoes make women’s legs and butts look better.  I understand that.  And believe me, my legs and butt can use all the help they can get.  That’s why I propose heels be made illegal, so no one has an unfair advantage.  I mean, let’s face it, a boycott would never work.  Most women would break the ban to temporarily impress some loser guy she didn’t even know in exchange for years of debilitating foot pain.  Totally worth it, right?  It makes no sense.  We have:

-Super-models and singers falling off their shoes on stage

-You and I twisting ankles, tearing ligaments and not able to keep up with our male counterparts who stride obliviously on in flat-footed comfort

-Business women, and others who have to get stuff done, pack and carry around extra shoes they can actually walk in.

-Women over 35 or 40 hobbling around on ruined feet, with toes twisted and malformed and Achilles tendons shortened to the point where they can no longer wear flat shoes comfortably either

-Global climate change (ok, maybe that’s not the fault of high heels, but I always like to add it to lists of things that upset me)

-Women on tv news and talk shows, sitting with their stilt-shoes, talking about equality, when they can’t even walk down the block or run from a fire.

And what about all those dumb women in horror films who can’t escape the sensible-shoe-wearing hatchet murderers?  I suspect one day anthropologists will dig up evidence of our society and honestly not understand what was going with all the bathroom debates and Kardashians and reality tv shows.  And they will wonder what type of society tortures its female population by forcing their feet into these pointy, stilted devices.

Anyway, back to my traitorous toes.  I don’t have gross, thick, yellow toenails – yet; still looking forward to that.  But recently the second and third toes on my right foot are starting to act like annoying, middle school girls.   They are staying as far away each other as possible and instead making bffs with the toes on the opposite sides.  Besides looking weird and twisted it also hurts.  So, I looked on the internet, asked friends, bought 13 different types of foot and/or toe pads at the drug store and finally asked my doctor about it when I was in for a totally unrelated reason.  She knew exactly what to do.  Make an appointment with the podiatrist.

When I got there, the first thing he told me he wouldn’t judge me for wearing flip-flops.  I was a little bit put off by this, because I was wearing good flip-flops, the ones with a little arch and lots of cushion.  I seriously considered giving him my rant on high heels, but decided to hold off for now.  After all, he might be charging by the hour.  So, after a brief examination he concurred with google.  I had the beginnings of hammer toes. His treatment consisted of giving me a type of toe/foot cushion that wasn’t carried by the drug store, and told me I would eventually, probably need surgery.  But not until the balloon payment on his yacht was due.  Ok, maybe I made up that last part.  So, I went home with my new toe/foot pad and it helped, sort of.  Then the following week I got his bill for $17,541.23, or something like that.  Because the health insurance industry in America is the devil.

But that’s another rant for another day.

The Journey

The journey is long
until one day
it isn’t
 
We go along
so focused on
this day, and the next,
and the one after that,
which friends, which cliques, which hobbies,
which college, which cliques, which friends.
And then which shoes
to go with which suit
to wear to the interview
to get the job
we end up hating,
or loving.
And which way
to wear our hair, our makeup, our heart
on that first date with the man,
or the woman
we end up loving,
or hating
and building a life with,
or not.
And where do we live, and how,
and do we have a mortgage?
A child?
More than one? How many?
Then the myriad of questions, decisions, choices
throughout the sleep-deprived days and months and years:
Which day care, play group, school, lessons, activities, college?
And hopefully we make or take
the time to be with them
before they are gone.
And how do we deal
with the guilt that comes
from splitting
a finite pie of time
to feed infinite needs.
And through all this we are working
on that big project, or account or case
or we aren’t;
or we are being down-sized
from that job and looking
(maybe desperately)
for another
or we are starting our own business
which will make it,
or not
with just a little more effort
and a little more time.
And of course
there is the house or condo or apartment
that needs attention:
needs to be filled with stuff
(which also needs attention)
needs to be repaired,
needs to be cleaned,
and eventually needs to be decluttered.
And maybe it will need to be replaced with
another, bigger one,
or maybe a smaller one,
or an accessible one
or one in another city or state or country.
And then one day, perhaps,
a parent needs help.
Help with meals, and medicines, and appointments
and eventually more.
And hopefully we make or take
the time to be with them
before they are gone.
And then there is another house or condo or apartment
and all its stuff that needs attention.
And maybe we have grandchildren, or not,
and maybe we are retiring, or not
and maybe, eventually
we will need help.
And hopefully they make or take
the time to be with us
before we are gone.
 
The journey is long
until one day
it isn’t.

 

The journey is long, and the poem is long.  If you made it this far, thanks!  This long, sprawling, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time poem was inspired by Anna Quindlen’s memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.