Cumberland Times-News

June 29, 2013

Another scorecard from the aging game

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

—  Hi! It’s just me again, getting old. I bet you’ve been missing my reports from the frontier of aging, so I’m happy to fill in the empty spaces since the last time I let you in on what it ‘s like to get, well, old.

One thing’s for sure — you don’t fret the small stuff. Mostly because you’ve already been doing the small stuff for years. For instance, recently I saw a question in a crafts column: “How do you fold a fitted sheet?”

The columnist stuttered around trying to explain, simply ignoring the fact that, as all old folks know — you long ago gave up on folding fitted sheets. At least the bottom one. It can’t be done. What you do is — you crumple it. Vaguely matching corners, you simply let it fall as it will, folding it over, crimping, and kicking it here and there to produce (eventually) a vaguely 2-foot square, which you can tuck on the shelf with all the other untidy 2-foot squares. This has the added convenience that when you pull it out, it starts to deploy immediately and, if you make it to the bed in time, it’s all ready to go.

Of course, life can get even more complicated than that, when you get old. We are still living, you understand, in a world in which you have to remember what day it is, whether or not you already took your pills, where it is you’re going, and, importantly, how to get there. (Oh, yes, and back. It helps to keep drilling yourself on the details all the way to and from. )

In case you haven’t noticed, to be old means not to have ever heard of any of the guests on the late night shows. Or in the newspaper. (Chris Mintz-Plasse, Maria Lark. Wale? Bruno Mars? North West. And older yet, not to care that you never heard of any of them. (And if you do know any of these names — please don’t feel obliged to tell me.) Not to mention some of the biggest names on the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy shows and TLC. What? Huh? Who? Honey Boo Boo?

Getting old nowadays calls for endurance too, the kind of endurance that can get you through the current misconception that “funny” equals “foul” (mouth) and “filthy” (behavior.) It doesn’t, and I doubt the present cultural trendsetters will ever understand that. Maybe the next generation, huh? We can only hope. Just warning you, that particular subject will probably come up in every column I ever write about getting old.

Getting old means getting all filled up. There are so few empty spaces left of memory, time, and potential, anymore. Well, maybe memory, which seems to get lots of empty spaces here and there. Otherwise, we old folks are all full to the brim.There’s not much room left for new stuff.

When you’re old, you think in ways you remember thinking before, only more so. For instance, several years ago I bought some Q-tips. Quite a large box of them actually. And I remember thinking at the time — boy, I’ll never outlast these. Well, guess what? I need Q-tips. Now my question is, do I buy the big box or the little box?

To be old is to not collect recipes any more. Well, I should note here that a ninety-year-old friend of mine recently asked someone for a cookie recipe, but I bet a fig newton it never has and never will make it out of her drawer. I do sometimes give in to the old days, and ask a friend for a really good recipe, but deep down I know I will never use it. And the pitying look I get with it means she probably knows that too, especially since she has previously noticed that, when it is my turn to bring cookies, I stop at the supermarket first.

Getting old means you’ve lived long enough to get past that creepy period when words start to change. New ones show up; old ones disappear — or, more likely get pronounced so differently, you can’t recognize them. (Actually, I’m old enough that some of them have started to change back, like Caribbean. When I first heard it, it was Car-a-BE-an. Then a generation later it changed to Car-RIB-ean. Now it’s back to “Car-a-BE-an” again.) They use “iteration” for “repetition,” “closure” for closing, “upgrade” for “update,” “replication” for “duplication,” “back in the day” for “in the old days,” “has the chops” for “is good at,” “surge” for “ increase.” We used to pronounce “Sacajawea,” of Lewis and Clark fame, with the accent on Sac. Last week I heard it with the accent on “caj”

And here’s one I first heard day before yesterday and have come across variations of it four times since! “Granularity” for “details.” Actually, I kind of like that one. This column has a lot of granularity in it, don’t you agree?

And here is a development of old age I never expected, but it gets stronger every day. I may even have told you about it before: I find myself saying “dear” to folks a lot more. Yesterday it hit me in the checkout line, and I said it to the girl before I realized it. She checked my receipt before she handed it over, to see if she had missed something.

Anyway, as I get older, other folks seem to get more lovable. The “dear” comes very easily. (For most of you. Not that idiot yesterday who — well, never mind — )

Or as Katie Couric says, in her upbeat mode,”Alrighty, then!”

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.