Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Boca Midnight

"It turns out that the whole journey of aging is something designed to lead us from thinking of ourselves as egos to knowing ourselves as souls." Ram Dass

We're in Florida this week visiting my parents. If you're a Boomer, I hope you too are lucky enough to have both your parents alive and sentient. It does however, come with a price.

What's the price? Patience. Not a small thing, believe me.

You need patience to live in your parent's house, even for a visit, decades after you've made a home of your own. You need patience to accept unsolicited, unwanted--if loving--advice with a gracious smile.

You need patience to listen to stories about people you don't know. Although to be fair, some of the stories are good:

The wealthy but frugal couple who love Boston Chicken but eschew paper and plastic -- so when hosting my folks there for dinner, brought their own china, silver, glassware, table linens and wine.

The young, dumb wife of a senior multimillionaire who puts on diamonds and airs but mispronounces everything. My mother's favorite is her description of shopping sprees at Hermés, which she calls Herm's.

The 80-year old man who's much in demand for night driving because "he's the youngest."

It's another world. A different mindset. A sun-drenched moonscape littered with expired expectations and desiccated dreams. So no matter how droll the stories, the key to sanity is still Patience.

You especially need patience to deal with your parents' medical issues -- which cause so much impatience in these once-vigorous people whose bodies and minds betray them almost daily.

They argue about everything and nothing. They snap at each other and you. Their frustration bubbles over at the slightest inability to remember a word, find a lost belonging, hear clearly the last thing you said.

You need the forbearance to help them cope as they experience inexorable decline. It's hard for them to live with that reality. And it's very hard to watch it happen to people we love.

We can't relate to facing the final curtain. We're still in our own second act. We're younger (in this context we Boomers are blessedly youthful) and living busy, productive lives. So visiting the land of the elderly is an endless exercise in patience.

The Super Bowl of patience is A Visit To The Doctor. If you've ever taken a parent to a medical appointment in Florida, you know why they call the state--and every doctor's office in it--"God's Waiting Room."

It's frankly creepy. Because no matter how we ignore or deny it, someday those shambling, horking, skinny-legged, X-ray toting, hearing-aid-wearing, milky-eyed aliens will be us. If we're lucky.

My parents are lucky. In their 80's, they continue to tackle and engage life. They do the crossword puzzle together every day. They play bridge. They handle their finances, shop, cook, go to movies, plays, concerts and lectures.

At 89, Dad takes afternoon naps but is then energized enough to hit the stationery bike and do a round on the weight machines. And 82-year-old Mom walks 3 miles on the treadmill daily, carrying hand weights.

Both are active in raising money and support for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, my mother's personal cause as a hedge against passing her Macular Degeneration on to us. They still travel.

And if there's a big party, they get all dressed up and dance the night away.

Well, almost.

Because if you're wondering about the title of this piece -- to the seniors of Boca Raton, Boca Midnight is local code for 10PM.

And if you're smiling, think about this: when was the last time you stayed up past midnight in black tie and high heels -- or even sneakers and jeans?

No matter where we live, we're approaching our own Boca Midnight faster than we'd like to think. I only hope to get there with as much grace and dignity as my parents.

But I'm in no hurry. I've learned to have patience.

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Blogger David Goldenberg said...

You speak truth, Sally

12:37 AM  
Blogger Minerva said...

What a beautifully written piece...


11:03 PM  

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