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Traditional Jewish Blessing

We were all sitting on the balcony. A late evening breeze ruffled the hair and was scented with the fragrance of potted flowers. The wine was flowing. It was the after party. A couple of people lit up cigarettes. Everyone was relaxed. When suddenly someone dropped a bomb into the center of it by saying: “I’m 39. I guess that makes me the youngest person here.”

Silence. My friend who is 45 and ALWAYS the youngest person in the room, froze, then his face crumpled like Kermit.

What went through his mind in those moments? Varicose veins, Elastized waist bands. Incessantly checking google for sign of a fatal disease. Becoming reacquainted with all the body parts he learned about in high school, especially the alimentary canal.

Aging - That boon to the medical profession, when doctors’ appointments can become a full time occupation. When does it start? I guess my friend just found out and got scared.

Don’t tell me your parents didn’t warn you. My father warned me, incessantly. Of course he was in the repeating himself stage. If you’ve ever watched daytime TV you’ll already be acquainted with the scary part. The constant ads for mobility scooters and stair-lifts. Incontinence pants, constipation, diarrhoea. In the US, hundreds of medications for diseases that you’ve never even heard of before. While in the UK, daytime TV is flooded with cremation offers. All of them assuming that people don’t want to be a burden. (In fact, I do. For years I had no will, figuring let them fight. Call it my lasting legacy. Now I have one but I still hung out against advance medical directive figuring my husband would spot a hangnail and say, ‘she wouldn’t want to go on like that.’)

There was a time when I wanted to live forever even if I ended up as just a head on a plate. So 120 years sounded okay with me. There are advantages to living long. Like not dying, of course. Or if you are invested in a tontine. Perhaps finally getting some use out of that in-between-season coat you’ve shoved to the back of the closet. Or using up the lentils you hoarded during the Pandemic.

Time enough to let that bad haircut grow out. Time to finally learn French. Time to finish Proust’s “A La Recherche de la Temps Perdu.” Or in fact even start it. Anyhow, no need to rush death when the afterlife sounds so boring. Hell might be unappetizing, but it does sound more interesting. At least it would be a bit more eventful.

Of course there are plenty of disadvantages. For example: All Jewish people eventually age to look like their Bubbe and Zeyde. Don’t laugh Christians, you all get to look like frail string beans. It’s inevitable, locked into your genes. So it was in this spirit that I let a girlfriend of mine talk me into trying Botox. As Rita Rudner says “I don’t plan to grow old gracefully. I plan to have face-lifts until my ears meet.”

So off we trot to Harley Street. I pointed out a few problem areas to the doctor. And may I say here that this was not while lying under a strong light, but just sitting across a table. At which point there was a pause… A long pause…a very long pause. And I can tell he’s thinking, ‘um…maybe if you’d come earlier. But now, Botox? Oh honey, that ship has sailed.’ In fact he gently told me that we are talking at best fillers. Still I can tell he’s thinking, ‘Maybe something a bit more like a john Deere fork-lift.’

It was then I decided to go the Rome route. After all, Rome is partially as beautiful as it is because of its crumbling facades.

So I rethought the head on a plate option. Anyway, how many hygienists’ appointments would you need to keep over 120 years. Think of it, even your very young friends would be very old. They’d all be retired, grumbling about those snowflakes, No wait, even the snowflakes would be old. And the conversation! One of our friends limits everyone to one illness and one grandchild.

I imagine Joan Rivers wasn’t very young when she said: “I enjoy life when things are happening. I don't care if it's good things or bad things. That means you're alive. Things are happening."

And things still do happen.

Mick continues strutting across the stage, albeit a bit more languorously. Elton is still harrumphing along. Only that voice!

But the best part of aging is you’re not dead yet. You can have another chance. Mend fences. Fall in love. Change your hair style. Learn something new.

Dance while you can.

(BTW The fiddler on the balcony is my father.)



TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now


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