They say I’m old. But they don’t know what old is. They break it down into a simple math equation. They take my birthdate as the starting point, then they take the current date and add up the years between the two dates They’ll say that number is my age, they’ll say that’s how old I am. But they don’t understand that I’m not the sum of the years I’ve lived, but rather, I’m all my ages——-all the time.  

Who I am, is all the things I’ve ever been. I’m the little girl playing with dolls and having a tea party. I’m the young girl learning how to dance. I’m the teen in the party dress nervously hoping some boy will ask me to dance. I’m the one discovering that indescribable passion of a first love. In me, is the youthful college graduate filled with tenacity and anxious to chase down her dreams. I’m the beautiful woman in that old photo dressed in a white wedding dress. I’m the first time mother gently cradling her baby. I’m the strong willed and determined career woman earning her respect in a man’s world. I’m the proud grandparent braiding her granddaughters hair. I’m the retired woman meeting her long time friends for lunch. I’m the matriarch giving my time and counsel to the young ones who are on their journey. Can’t you see, I’m all these things at once. So for god sake, please don’t call me old——call me experienced.  I’m like a pair of broken in hiking boots, a little worn but comfortable and a good fit for all seasons. 

Sure, I have those aches and pains that come with age. I move a little slower. I might forget a thing or two. My hair is graying and my hearing isn’t what it use to be. But inside, I swear, I feel much younger than I appear (Well, at least that’s true most days). Sometimes I sit in my chair and run all my favorite memories back like old movies being screened in a darkened theater. Yes, those were the days of my life and no one can take them from me. Life is bitter sweet, but mostly sweet. I enjoy the small things now. I enjoy sitting outside and listening to the birds, visiting with my family, slipping into a warm bed——-and of course——-having a good ole bowel movement. 

If I could be young for one day I’d do some wild crazy things. I’d ride my bicycle down to the beach, peal off my clothes and go skinny dipping in that Pacific ocean. I’d have myself a slice of triple layer chocolate cake and wash it down with champagne. I’d challenge all those loudmouthed bullies to an arm wrestle. I’d beat their asses then tell them to fuck off. I’d go through the karma-sutra and try all the positions once, and the ones I liked, I’d do twice. I’d turn my speakers up to ten, then sing and dance to all my favorite songs. I’d make a point of calling everyone I love and tell them how they made my life joyful, memorable and worth living. 

I’d hold your hand and look you in the eye as if I’d never have to let go or say goodbye. But life is like juggling, catching and then letting go—-catching then letting go. But there are parts of me you’re stuck with—— you’ve involuntarily inherited my funny quirks and crazy idiosyncrasy, my good parts and my not so good parts, my headstrong ways, my strong will, my soft heart, my love of a good laugh, my desire for deep late night conversations and my lust for travel and adventure. Ah, this life is such a beautiful gift——thanks for being such an important part of it.

And you see my love, through all these things I shall live on. 

A thousand kisses deep–

She lives a thousand leagues under the sea at a place called Fountain Crest, it’s an assisted living facility, a rest home, an old folks home, a murky place at the bottom of the sea.  Above the surface life goes on with its bright lights and people racing around here to there, darting back and forth like a flock of frenzied seagulls scavenging through another days accumulation of garbage.  Up there time is cheap, everyone is preoccupied with getting their share as they squabble and fight, wearing out another precious moment, like tiny air bubbles under pressure, each moment bursts and then quietly disappears.

I drift past all the deep sea inhabitants who stare back at me with big exaggerated eyes behind thick fish eye lenses.  They wear homesick eyes like a child dropped off on the first day of school— lost watery eyes left wondering, “What am I doing here”, “Are they coming back for me”, “How will I ever get home again”.  They breath slowly, swaying in the invisible currents, circling aimlessly, going nowhere in particular.  Hands gripping railings, hands holding onto walkers, fingers strumming on a table in time with an old song no one else can hear.  Perhaps its The Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington or maybe Count Basie.  The big dance hall echoes with brassy swing music blaring and everyone is dancing beneath a canopy of blue and red colored lights.  Men in dark pressed suits hold women in multi colored party dresses as they flow in unison across a mahogany wood-floor. It’s a Monet in slow motion, couples glide in rhythm with the ebb and flow of jazz music.  She is in love for the first time and no one, not even time itself will take this memory from her—-these days memories and reality swim together.

In the recreation room residents are sitting playing dominos while others stare at the big screen TV.  Some sit solo, silently staring out the window into an empty patio with its neatly kept flower gardens. There eyes go through a series of mixed emotions as they question my presence here.  I am a stranger under their waves of isolation and at first the eyes of the occupants gaze at me with an air of curiosity.   Next comes a stare of surprise, “Is someone sick?”.  Then fear, “Has another one passed away last night?”.  Then comes envy, “Look, she has a visitor”.  And finally thankfulness, “Isn’t that nice, someone has made that long dive—–a thousand kisses deep.”

I no longer look into their faces, at this depth they all begin to look the same.  I watch their hands.  Each set of hands tell their own story.  Swollen wrists, knuckles deformed and twisted, age spots, yellowed nails, blue broken veins, tentacles gripping on to little pieces of life, or what is still left of one.  These are the hands that cradled new-born babies, that reassured a scared child in the dark, caressed the fevered brow of the sick, hands that prepared home cooked meals, washed floors, dishes and folded untold loads of laundry, hands that once wielded a hammer to build homes and dreams, fixed what needed fixed, protected what needed protected, hands that played piano in churches and bars, hands that teased, tickled and pleasured a lover, hands that planted roses and canned peaches, hands that money fell through, hands worn callused by physical labor, hands once clinched into fists of anger, hands clasped together in prayer for mercy and grace, hands that composed love letters, baked birthday cakes, taught life lessons, wiped tears away, hands that then as well as now, still reach out towards life.  If eyes are the mirror of the soul, then I believe hands are a reflection of the heart.

We take her for a drive to visit family members.  We share food and reminisce about the old days.  There is much laughter as we recall funny stories from the past.  We fondly remember those that have passed and reaffirm how they shaped and contributed to the family.  Photos are proudly passed around and stories shared about the “going on’s” of our younger ones.   Claudia has a new job, Chris a promotion, Victor’s graduation, Haley’s skiing, Amelia is walking.   Today is golden, for the briefest of moments time stands still for us—-we feel everything—–we can feel one another—-it’s always in the littlest of things that the sacredness of love is shared.

Back at her place beneath the waves, we have a seat at a table in the dinning area.  It’s late November and a drizzle of rain falls from the evening sky.  There is no longer any need for conversation as we sit staring out at the receding sun and silently hold hands.