Sometimes I sit and try to imagine what I'll be like when I'm old. I look at my hands and picture them thin and wrinkled, with bulging blue veins, or envision the future lines on my face - brackets at the corners of my mouth, crow's feet clawing their way to my ears. I wonder whether I'll be thin and delicate, with severe osteoporosis, or cheerfully dumpy, with heart disease. Will I wear polyester pantsuits, or live in skirts? Will I embroider cushions, or will I scrapbook? (Embroider, probably. I don't have many pictures.)
The image I usually end up with is one of a tiny, hunched-over woman with crinkly skin and a hair net. She wears "sensible shoes" and carries a parasol, occasionally using the curved handle to poke bratty youngsters in the shin. She calls it trespassing when people step on her lawn, and has three cats who all hate each other.
She attempts to cook, and is constantly baking bread for people, but although the bread is terrible, no one has the heart to tell her so. They thank her profusely every time she stops by with a new loaf, and then, once she's gone, they toss it in the trash. The bread is so dry, it crumbles where it falls. Even the banana bread is dry.
In all my versions of the story I'm a spinster, and bitter as hell. I'm a little like Barbara in Notes on a Scandal, if I'm being honest. Of course, Barbara wouldn't bake bread, and I'm not a lesbian, and I can't imagine ever being cruel enough to completely destroy someone's life the way she does to Sheba's, but I have her acerbity, and air of disdain. (Disdain masking a crippling insecurity, as it usually does.)
Okay, truly, I don’t believe I’ll end up like this, but I can’t envision any alternatives. Sweet pie-baking granny? Um, no. Red Hat Society member? Hell, no. Spry, athletic spitfire of a senior? Well, I could probably be a spitfire, but I’ve never been spry.
The funny thing is that I really enjoy talking to old people - I find them interesting – but I dread becoming one. I worry that I’ll be the wrong type of old person: the bitter, angry type, who missed out on everything, and only realizes it when it’s too late. A person who goes from angry but functional to angry and senile, who becomes a burden on people who never wanted to hang out with her in the first place.
I’ve heard so many people say that once they’re senile, they don’t want to live anymore. I get where they’re coming from, and I usually feel the same way, but ultimately I know that I will cling to the last remaining shreds of my life the way Madonna clings to relevancy. Pathetically.
Which is all just a rather long-winded and not terribly articulate way of saying that I am utterly terrified of death and the last dozen or so years leading up to it, and would prefer to stay twenty-one and aimless for the rest of time. You know?