Day #136: Fleetwood Mac – “Albatross”
My grandma used to drive me crazy when she’d say, “it’s no fun getting old.” She’d say it so much, it became like a catchphrase, and it annoyed me the way she’d get annoyed by elderly people she knows who fill conversational air with reports about their aches and pains and visits to the doctor. It’s not just a reminder about being old, there is a sadness. There was no sadness to grandma, who at eighty, is still getting up on ladders to paint the house. I don’t think grandma understood, that we saw age differently. Or, at least I did, since my brother had in his 20s dismissed 40-somethings as old. But, we were raised by our grandparents. And, the majority of family members and family friends we got to know as we were growing up were from their generation. Age probably didn’t mean the same to us as it did to other kids who were raised by their parents or people their parents’ age.
I dropped by my aunt’s house this weekend to take her home with me to Florida. She’s my really my great aunt, but the title feels cumbersome and makes her sound removed. She’s grandma’s sister-in-law. Her husband was one of grandma’s brothers that we were all closest to, and when he died six years ago, I asked Tom what would happen to my aunt now. They didn’t have children. She would now be a woman in her late 80s learning to living alone. Without the man she had share so much of her life with. Though, I am relieved to know that she is close with people in town who are able to keep her company.
It’s kind of sad when I return to her house in the small North Carolina town where she’d spent most of her life. There’s a familiarity and a routine that hasn’t changed much since we started going there as kids. It’s the same furniture. The same coffee cups. The same clothes. The same routine of finishing the night by asking what we’d want for breakfast in the morning – a sausage biscuit or cereal. And these things have aged as she does. I’ve started to notice where things are falling apart, or are starting to, and it makes me wish more than anything that my uncle was still around to be with her. She tries to keep busy, and remain in good spirits, but to lose someone like that feels like the way a family dog doesn’t fully return to its normal self when the other family dog dies. It’s apparent that something will always be missing.
My aunt has become more conscious about her safety and her health. She keeps my uncle’s dusty hunting jackets on the back porch to give the appearance that a man, and maybe more specifically a man who is into hunting, still lives there. I’ve noticed that her eyesight has gotten so bad that she can hardly read the morning paper anymore. As we sat down to breakfast this weekend, she showed me a bottle of vitamins that she started taking. I don’t remember what it was called, but I thought the name and the logo both seemed too cheesy to really give any impression that it does anything at all to improve eyesight. Or at least slow down the deterioration. I don’t want to imagine that it will get to be so bad that she will eventually go blind, and I don’t want her to think about it at all, though I’m sure the thought has quietly crossed her mind.
I think I’m finally starting to get what grandma had meant all these years. I look now at my aunt, and even my grandma who, despite her best efforts to remain industrious, has slowed down quite a lot, too, and realized that this will be us in time. We will age and slowly wither whether we like it or not. It’s this that makes me want to punch people who complain that turning 30-something is getting old. A few gray hairs and persistent aches and pains is nothing. We have no idea yet what it really means.