Wrinkle Resistant

On not quite a whim I asked my husband to drive by the new senior co-housing development on the not quite way to the grocery store. Oh! What a coincidence, Open House. We got the tour, the sales pitch, the literature. That night, I borrowed my husband’s obsessions and couldn’t sleep. He was pleased. Since we married fifteen years ago he has stayed awake nights worrying about dying and leaving me all his assorted crap to sort through. He was gratified to have me join the side of the righteous and ineffective Morbid Obsessive-Compulsives.

We, meaning I, would like to downsize. We, meaning both of us, would like to send a message to my daughters that they don’t live here, anymore, nor do we run a storage facility. I am a year short of qualifying as “senior,” he qualified 20 years ago, thus his worry about leaving me with his mess, which is compounded by my mess, the mess of two daughters and the fact that neither one of us makes decisions quickly – we had neither a dining room table nor a bed frame for the first year of marriage, my husband began deciding to sell his boat shortly after we married without reaching a final decision for ten years. If we were of a similar age, I might be tempted to allow nature to take its course and let my daughters dig my body out when it’s over, but the Law of Probabilities or some other law tells me where this is heading.

The “cottages” were compelling, sited on several acres with mature trees. Every home has front and back porches and a small yard. Pets are allowed.  There is a community vegetable garden and a health center. It’s a short walk from our favorite lake. Everyone we talked to was cheerful, talking about shared glasses of wine on front porches, communal meals, card playing and shared events in the Community House.

So, why am I despondent?  I don’t mind old people, I just don’t want to be called one and neither does my husband, nevermind his age. Nearly everyone in this development was retired, female, younger than my husband and mystified as to why he was still working. He was mystified what one does when one no longer works. The whole selling point of this development is that it forestalls assisted living. I get it. I don’t get getting excited about the prospects in life being reduced to “assisted living” and something “better than assisted living.” When did we get to the point we had to start thinking like this? Was it when my husband’s cardiologist started telling him that his sinus node isn’t working properly and he could drop dead? Was it just this month when he turned 75? Or when I turned 50 and started getting literature from AARP? Or has it been the slow progress of marriage to an older man who has worried since he met me that he would die and leave me, a once single mother, apparently once competent to raise two children and make her own decisions, suddenly rendered helpless by virtue of marriage and the eventual prospect of loss, unable to cope without a man in the house?


For My Husband And Sherry Who Think I Need More Orange


I make a concession mid-October through Thanksgiving, a compromise for a  man who wishes he could bring back the seventies and the orange and plaid love seat he had when we met, who mourns every dry Summer that leads to brown Autumn.

I was in Marching Band in high school with a flute. Okay, piccolo, and me like the calf born with a fifth leg who couldn’t march to a 4/4 beat. The colors – orange and black, perpetual Halloween, mutant bee. I started ditching practice and football games. The trauma reignited when I moved to a college town that lives for football, its colors – orange and black.


How does one live in this town when one is neither a fan of football or orange? Quietly. I am not quiet. I will wear black ostentatiously as a funeral director.  I have owned a black cat.

I will celebrate orange six weeks of the year. Rust counts as orange. No? Alright, so, I put up black cats and black owls, the latter looking at least somewhat stately, in orange football sweaters, crows in orange hats, witches. Also in orange. And yes, there are pumpkins.

The more I shun orange the more I see orange in the things that I love  and worse, in OSU orange and black.

As we debate the burning questions

We are well known for no sense of direction. My younger daughter called a couple weeks ago en route to Stillwater from Tulsa. You can drive due west via the turnpike or Highway 51. She couldn’t tell me how she arrived in Luther, southwest of destination, on Route 66. Today my husband knew “exactly” where we were going. He likes to say we take the road less traveled. I like to say where are the rest rooms? He asks where is the closest coffee house, I ask what does that have to do with the price of tea in China, he asks what’s with all the signs warning about seismic crews, I want to know why is there a sculpture sitting on the edge of a field in the middle of nowhere and would he turn around so I can get a picture, he wants to know is that finger pointing to heaven and why not the middle finger instead? If and when we find our destination, we may at least have answered one or two burning questions. Most assuredly our conversation will have veered from geography to geology, religion, trade wars, politics and the environment. When he asks why is that chicken running loose, I finally have an answer:

Not Why But If And What Happens Next

The chicken busted loose,
wandering lost in indecision
by the side of the road.
A cricket jumps first,
the chicken merely follows
her appetite, a Silverado
catches her in its grille and, yes,
many roads are crossed all the way
to Bugtussle, (I kid you not),
Oklahoma, where she is rolled
for all she’s worth
in many savory spices
and chili peppers.

As we get older the dives accomodate us

When I was six or seven my older brother and I were making our own droplines – one by two piece of lumber, fishing line, a sinker, bobber, hook and earthworms dug from under the slate tiles Dad laid beneath the gutter then we were off catching pan fish from the dock at “the lake.” I knew how to thread a worm onto a hook, wipe the castings onto my shorts and wiggle a fish off. I moved up to a bamboo pole and fished off the “forbidden bridge” that was for the rich folks who lived on the island. Then there was a dearth of fresh fish in my life until I met Bob and learned how to spin cast, and, better, use a fly rod.

I confess I have never cleaned a fish and peel my shrimp and crawfish myself only because I married into southern Louisiana, but I love the sort of restaurants that look as though the fish have been beheaded, gutted and fileted on the patron tables just before opening for the business day.  And they all do serve fish, caught right out their back doors. So, for all I know, the tables could be scarred from filet knives, oiled with the fat from what we will eat later that night. 

The first place we found was Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina, which isn’t strictly a dive, being part of the Taos Ski Valley complex, but their staff do look like they could gut the fish right at your table and you, too, if you don’t watch it. The outside looks deceptively respectable. Inside, it meets our requirements – inch thick scarred wood tables and benches, and a now aging staff and matching customers who ride Harleys their lawyer and medical practices buy. We pretend to be what we were, Dylan, Stones and Grateful Dead still play on the radio, we dress and play like we did “back in the day,” though we couldn’t afford then what we pay for now. After my hysterectomy, as I was dressed for discharge, my GYN walked in and I was wearing Tim’s shirt. Doc cracked up – he thought my T-shirt said Tim’s Spayed Dog Cantina. I’ve thought maybe they could do a special edition for women like me.

Years ago we spent the week of New Year’s on Sparky’s patio with visquine, wood stoves, well seasoned tuna and plenty of beer to keep us warm. The last time we were there, we were disappointed to see that the rough edges were not exactly gone but, well, cushioned, a reminder that the clientele is aging.

At least Fat Boy’s in Manchac is what it has always been (three tables and fried seafood) or was until Hurricane Isaac. My only visit included the whole Louisiana family of that particular generation – Cousin Al, Janie, Gail and my husband and our host son, Timour, from Belguim, who we thought needed an introduction to the Cajun version of French and Cousin Al who took us next door to the bait shop to introduce us to the first man who ever arrested him, his friend, the retired game warden.

Even when I’m in town, when others head for Starbucks, I’m at the downtown coffee shop with the pitted concrete floor, the fly swatter in the corner, the eclectic clientele (where they will tell you what meds they are on and you know without being told if their dose needs adjustment) and when I walk in, the barista has my order filled before I get to the counter.