The Millers: Part Two

I’m probably too pooped to be amusing. Luckily, there’s Maida. All writers should have a Maida. Endless material.

The Millers returned to their winter home in California last week, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. As the Christmas Market co-chair at my church, I spent the entire week preparing for this annual event, doing the things that churchy do-gooders do for these shoppy fair thingies. But while I was running around the undercroft with good, Christian women, the Millers were packing up to leave the cold weather (and us) behind for good. Stressed with the work of it all and upset about leaving her cherished home, Maida left without her usual excitement about heading west. She left without the comfort of knowing her house would be waiting for her in the spring. She left without her purse.

I wonder how many travelers were delayed behind the Millers as Maida convinced TSA agents that she wasn’t a terrorist using a 1975 passport and her considerable powers of persuasion. Gabbing on the phone like BFFs who ignore all notions of the terminal F, I was treated to the funny details of ancients-in-air that probably weren’t so hilarious to the poor flight attendants. Maida is also so angry with her husband for planning to sell the house that she’s threatening divorce. “But FIRST, Britta, I’m going to need face lift!” I love that age is unable to tame the spunk of that gal. Someday, I hope to be a flirty octogenarian who can get onto the jetway using only my charm and a library card.

Liberal Joe (in a post-election departure from super fabulous, lefty political rants) recently blogged about spending some time with a crowd of extreme elders, and how that sucked in a going-to-be-me-soon kind of way. Glimpsing a relatively imminent and inevitable drooling decrepitude is unsettling. We all want to hold on to our beauty, our dignity, and our bowels. But the Millers consistently remind me of the Powerball fortune of longevity, as my own remains in constant query.

I’ll lead with the very good news that the lump was benign: basic scar tissue with nary a rogue cell in the mix. But just in time to taint Thanksgiving with a touch of terror, Bernie noticed a bump– a bump exactly where my cancer originated. But no matter where I get lumpy, from now until The End, any teeny bulge necessitates a biopsy, and a pathologist decides if I get to keep all of this fabulous hair. Bah. But I’ll happily endure these mini-dramas, these additional little pokes and prods and scars, if it means I can see the boys go to college, or watch them wait nervously at the end of an aisle, or hold their own, fractionally Asian kids. I just want to grow old and fall down stairs with Bernie.

Last night, we unlocked the Miller home and by the light of their 20-watt bulbs, found Maida’s purse where she always puts it after a (failed) attempt to pay me for eggs, or milk, or vodka. There in the dim light, I could almost see the house through Maida’s eyes and felt sad for her loss. And if her style of fierce, loyal love is the key to staying power on this planet, then I’m going to be just fine. We have this in common, me and Maida—a tenacious glass-half-full-ness in spite of scary lumps or removable teeth.

I hope these little saucy broad vignettes might be a bit of a foil to the daunting detection of mortality Joe faced on the arrival of his 70th birthday (still a youngster!). My dad always says, “Dying is really going to piss me off.” He doesn’t want to miss the party. But for people like my Dad, or Joe, and especially Maida, the bar is still open and the band is just getting to the good songs. In her 90th decade, and with nearly 60 years between us, Maida and I became friends. Good stuff lies ahead for those of us with the gift of time. Still grateful about my pathology report, I’d like to think the quality of that gift doesn’t depend on my dependence on Depends®. Let’s just all grow old and fall down the stairs together.

JOE BURKE

Liberal Joe… who will never be old.

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