Last night Sarah and I went to hear Earl Scruggs and The Red Clay Ramblers at Memorial Hall. Earl Scruggs, pushing 86 years of age, was too ill to play, sadly. To the delight of the audience, as some small measure of compensation, the chancellor of Carolina, Holden Thorp (I know you are thinking what a great North Carolina name!) joined the Ramblers on stage for a number. It was one of those Only At Carolina moments.
The whole experience though had me thinking alot about age as these continuing encounters with aging icons seem more a fact of life. In my view, the measure of time passing can be measured in the relative age of Paul Simon.
All of these thoughts about aging have me thinking about what kind of old lady I will be. At this point, I can see myself going in two very different directions. At various points in the day, either direction seems particularly appealing. The first is the old lady who hangs out at the racquet club. In the mornings I play doubles matches with other ladies at the club, followed by a light lunch and an afternoon of shopping or reading. Some days when the weather is nice outside, all I want to do is play tennis all day. These are the days when I like the idea of the tennis club grandma. Of course, this means that I have to ensure that I don’t have any debilitating knee injuries between now and my old lady days, and this is not something that I can safely guarantee. My family has a history of knee problems, and I think that the ways that my knees creak already indicate that I did severe damage to them in my younger dancing days.
The second option is entirely different from the first. The second option stems from the combination fear that I will never have children and the accompanying fear that I have failed to do anything worthwhile in my life that has made a difference in the life of anyone else. This old lady just wants to imagine not retiring to a life of amusement at the club, but rather allowing myself to grow tanned and wrinkled working in the sun of Subsaharan Africa. There are many days, when I wish that I could just pickup and go there, wishing that I had any worthwhile skills that could actually be of any use. On days when I am thinking like this I do things like applying to be a volunteer for the UN, knowing full well that they will never select me to do anything because I have made the shameful choice to always do things the easy way and live in relative comfort and luxury rather than do anything difficult that would actually have given me some useful skill that could help others. These are also the days when I sit and think about how selfish I have been for most of my life and I fear that I will never learn true charity and selflessness toward any creature other than my dog, Knightley, without some dramatic change in my life. These are days when I feel humiliated about the amount of time that I spent this week doing things like looking at slide shows of fashion week shows, and I feel guilty for the fact that I have been feeling guilty about my materialism for over ten years now and have done so little about it, when I, of all people, know that there is more to life. It isn’t like I have the excuse of not seeing the world and not understanding that there are things out there to do, folks.
So what will it be, grandma?