Tuesday Morning Press 22 — Mid-Life, Presbyterian? No, Presbyopia & Grateful for Age


I didn’t do a Tuesday Morning Press last week. I didn’t feel like posting the content I wrote. It wasn’t ready, so rather than turn myself inside out, I decided to take my own advice: don’t over perform, don’t force, don’t exhaust the law of diminishing returns and just chill. Post content when I feel like it; after all, it’s not like I have an editorial desk waiting for me. Plus, the healthcare benefits of this blogging gig aren’t exactly like a pair of golden handcuffs.

Yesterday I hit 45.5 years old. Based on my genetics, it’s unlikely I’ll live much past 90. If her TV isn’t blaring in the background when she calls, my mother likes to remind me of my 91-y.o. “aunt” (we’re related but it’s really nuts to explain it so I won’t) so who knows, maybe I’ll make it to the mid-90s.

No matter… Conversations with my mom are hard for me. It’s not that she’s old and sort of losing it, it’s that she’s always been on her own wavelength. Conversations with her are usually about Ellen DeGeneres’ hair, Molière, Dr. Phil or Tom Cruise. She likes to talk about things I understand least in this world. So I listen, then I hit a point where I can’t anymore. She really likes to talk, but about the things she wants to talk about. When I try to get off the phone with her, it usually goes like this:

Me: Ok, well I’m ready now. I’d like to get off the phone.

Mom: Mipsy Klaustahaler thinks you’re smart…

Me: Mom, I can’t talk anymore; I have things to do and when you start to get like this, my blood boils. I am trying to hang up.

Mom: Your wedding was a happy time…

So she plays her own tape; she always has. It’s not an age thing; it’s a Molly’s Mom Thing. I said to her one day, “I can’t relate to you in these conversations. Every time I talk about something real, you call it ‘maudlin,’ or ‘negative,’ or ‘dramatic’ and so it becomes crazy-making for me. You want to talk about my wedding but not the bright turquoise suit and gigantic hat you wore [click the link for photo] and how your appeals for attention that day hurt me.” My entreaties are ignored. She does not respond to what I say ever. The conversations are circular.

Truth be told, I’m trying to have a meaningful conversation with her, and I feel this urgency — there’s so much to say, I want to work things out with her, but it’s like fighting a tsunami, so I try to let it go. Genetically, she could live for another 12 years. I will likely live those from a mental hospital if this keeps up. So I give in, say a little prayer to St. Francis, and try to be a channel for peace. I need to save my energy for myself and my children, but I’m sacked with this Catholic guilt about not being a good kid. And around we go again. It’s hard.

 . . . . . .

Last week, I posted an 11-year-old NASA photo taken by the Hubble telescope of a light echo of the formerly brightest in the Milky Way shining even brighter and then immediately dying (this is known as a supernova). ‘Light echo’? Did you know there are more than 200 billion stars in our own galaxy? I won’t talk about how many galaxies there are. It was a great relief to me to know that even that star, our system’s brightest, couldn’t keep it up anymore. She hit her maximum output.

We will all die. Ninety? That’s plenty old for me, however, it’s important to maintain what I have.

I twisted my ankle almost two months ago on the steps at IKEA. I thought about suing them for making me choose to use the steps and wear the clogs I wore (I was thinking Swedish an’ all; when I go to REI, I wear a kayak; when I go to Home Depot, I wear a chain saw, doesn’t everyone?) and decide to go to IKEA that day when I could’ve just stayed home. Instead, I leaned on my son, rubbed my ankle, flexed it a bit to make sure it was OK, told my son to close his eyes, I flipped the bird to the security camera, and moved on.

I walked through the rest of IKEA and didn’t find what I was looking for. That, I should sue them for.

If it weren’t for the yoga and my general state of good health, I likely could’ve broken something. It hurt a lot and it’s still achey today, but I can run on it, practice yoga (although it’s weaker) and chase my children up the stairs when they don’t go to bed on time. I suspect I’ll need a hip replacement one day.

I’ve got laugh lines, and I love them. If you have read every single syllable I’ve ever written here, you know that I’ve said the quickest facelift is a smile; I catch myself consciously grinning as I type this. It’s true. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

I know! Right? Just smile all the time, it makes people nervous.

. . . . . .

Saturday night I went to a mini high school reunion at a friend’s house. It was so great to see everyone. We are all “in there” — I recognized everyone and to me we are just wider, wiser, less-haired, crow’s footed, worry-lined versions of ourselves. People lied remarked that I haven’t changed a bit. The lighting helped and there was alcohol served.

The joke of the night? Presbyopia: Our whacked-out eyesight and our short arms. How is it that I went to bed with my 20/20 contact lens -aided vision and all of a sudden the next morning (well, it felt like that) I couldn’t read anything within an arm’s length of my face? So because we all have smartphones or cameras, we’re snapping pics and it was hilarious. We’re all squinting and “Wha-? Who is that? Me?” -ing ourselves and our friends in the photos, moving the image away and in and closing one eye or the other, blaming it on the lighting, “I can’t see it in this light…” (and that’s true, some displays are terribly dark) but the wonderful part of it all is that we’re all doing this together. What I’m waiting for is the Nikon CoolPix Whatever ad of Ashton Kutcher crashing an event and running like an old man, then snapping shots and holding his camera three feet from his face to see what he’s taken and what’ll even be funnier is the gals who will hang on him when he takes the pics. They’ll be REGULAR PEOPLE — in my mind they would be.

So far no one has married someone half their age. A lot of us have bangs now. As I looked around at our assemblage I felt a lot of pride. It was a really nice feeling to have been included in this group and blessed by its company. We were all at our (mostly) natural (save for hair color, contact lenses, maybe even some anti-wrinkle cream here or there) states.

Back to the eyes. Lasik won’t work; presbyopia affects the muscles and the lens. Apparently the muscles and the lens starts to stiffen around age 40 and around age 60 they stay permanently stiff. Sounds like if we could swap out Viagra needs for men around 60 with our presbyopia stiffness we might be on to something…

Of all the things surgery can address: boobs, fat, hair, turning you into Barbie or Ken, it seems that there still is no surgical way to fix the presbyopia. It’s probably easier to get arm-lengthening surgery. I noticed this first when I went out for a run and tried to set my GPS watch and I couldn’t read a damned thing on the screen. Then I couldn’t set my iPod because the font was too small and my arms were too far away, but up close, I couldn’t read a thing. So now I just yell a lot.

I’ve sort of worn my age like a champ, there are parts of myself that I’ve never been thrilled with, but I’ve gotten over that. I am proud of how old I am and I am coming (finally) to terms with being OK with how I got here: crazy, Ripley’s-Believe-it-or-Not -esque childhood, my therapist’s lumpy couch and all. The truth is: it’s up to me to decide how to deal with it all. I’ve chosen to recall, assess, process and integrate my past into my life. This way there’s no denial and there’s no shame. It’s just life and I’m proof it can mostly work out. My therapist credits my great aunt Alshee, God rest her soul, with helping us out as kids.

Being on the other side of the slope doesn’t mean I’m going to kick up my feet and take it easy; it just allows me to keep things in perspective. I can trust my gut and my decisions and be OK with where I am. I don’t have to second-guess myself anymore. I’ve made it through the first half of my life fairly well, I’m sure the second half will be just as fine. The key is to keep the drama at bay. So, the next time my mom calls, I’m gonna let it go to voicemail.

Thank you.

9 responses »

  1. Oh how I can relate, my friend. My mother, who now lives with us, thrives on any sort of drama or chaos. All she wants to talk about is death, depression, illness, cancer, etc. Granted, these things consume a good part of her life now as friends get sick, die, get put in nursing homes etc. I remind her that her lovely daughter (ME) brought her to live with her so she wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home. I try to remind her of lots of good things. But often, she has exhausted my reserve of positivity before we even scratch the surface of her negativity. My husband used to comment, when she didn’t live with us and this took place over the phone, that he could watch me physically shrink as the conversation sucked the life out of me.

    And the presbyopia makes me laugh. My husband, who is a full year and a half younger than I am is starting to experience short-arm syndrome. Although, I’m nearly blind as far as distance, my up-close vision remains okay for now. Mind you, at my 40th birthday eye appt. the dr. was bound and determined to prove I couldn’t see up close–come on, man, let me celebrate this one little victory, would you??

    Since my mom moved in, she doesn’t have as much drama to report. And I’ve found that she’s really easy to occupy. I have her studying the health benefits of coconut oil right now, and she reports to me all the time with something new she read about. If I could just get her to use the internet…Not sure what I’ll task her with next, but I’m thinking essential oils.

    Cheers! Happy Tuesday!

  2. Ohhhh the tapes! The looping tapes. I hate those. We have a family member with tapes of her own. Her husband provides the laugh track. I am completely serious. The same conversation, laughter in the exact same spot…over and over again. Superficial conversations. I feel your pain.

  3. Oh…..how I can relate to all of this………….with the exception of being ok with where I am in life. Still working on improving that aspect, but I know in time it will come.

    Have a great day!

    • for me i had to decide to be OK with where i am; or else i’d there, trying to fix it. sometimes there is nothing to be done other than to honor where you are and decide it’s time to “leave.” it will come… leaving it behind can help too though. 😉 xo

  4. There is so much good stuff in here I don’t even know where to begin. My mother’s favorite line to use with her own mother (who was stubborn and had dementia in her later years) was always, “You could be right, mother.” That was her way of ending a conversation and avoiding any drama at the same time. Of course I now use it with my own mother on occasion. 😉

    When you find a way to sue IKEA, please let me know.

    In my mind I now picture you with very very short arms.

    • your mother sounds like she was trained by military intelligence to have nonconversations with people. i like it. my father was trained in MI and he does have a reply, “that sounds like a really good idea” which is my wall street brother’s equivalent to what’s called a “grin fuck” when someone will nod and smile and agree and work behind the scenes to foil your plans. grin fucking. no down payment required.

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