I never should have let my younger daughter read Water For Elephants. Now when I tell her she gets me when I am old and incontinent she tells me she is going to drop me off at the circus. After all, she says, you like animals. My older daughter thinks I would prefer a commune and has made specific suggestions. Both think I should avoid living with old people. My stepson sidesteps the issue of his aging father saying his dad married a younger woman to absolve him of responsibility. What will he do, I wonder, when his father ends up wrapped in diaper and blue bow on his doorstep?
My husband and I occasionally get calls from concerned family members or Adult Protective Services because Gramps or Mum is gambling away their inheritance/life savings/Social Security check. Prior to a “certain age” irresponsible behavior is merely irresponsible. Then, there’s a point, not precisely known, but agreed upon by “reasonable people” when boozing it up and shopping frenzies are no longer appropriate, as if they ever were and Granny needs an evaluation for dementia. This means having fun, if she wants to be above suspicion, should be limited to wearing clothing and colors that mildly don’t suit her on lunch dates with others of her kind, this means book clubs and dominoes.
If life were truly fair, which is a big and erroneous assumption, by all rights my daughters should have to change my Depends. I laid down the law that I was done parenting when they turned 18. They are 27, almost, and 21 and the door still revolves. But do I want a role reversal? Revenge is not nearly sweet as independence. Shall I become preoccupied with the merits of this or that adult undergarment and play pinocle on Saturday afternoons or shall I, the woman who on internship was voted the intern with the fewest inhibitory neurons, remain true to form? Who decided old people should be managed? My husband and I are not investment portfolios, although we have them. I have worked with “old people” in one way or another since I was younger than my daughters, the first jobs in nursing homes. One old woman told me that she and her husband had worked and saved, worked and saved, never had any fun and for what? So they could end up spending their life savings on a place like this. Don’t do it, she said, spend your money now, while you can enjoy it. I think about her often. It was some of the best advice I have ever been given.
My husband tells my daughters that I am afraid they will abandon me in my old age. They assure me that they won’t. I hope not. I intend to be a model of how to live old age to the fullest, how to be thoroughly unmanaged.