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The Unkindness of Gravity and the Kindness of Surprise

by Liz Flaherty

Since I’ve grown older, I write a lot about ... well, about growing older. About grandkids and the unkindness of gravity and how to stay married when single looks like more fun. About how difficult the workplace is for those of us over 50, the fallibility of my knees, and how much I don’t like any rock music written after 1975.

I also write that getting older is cool. It’s fun. Mentally and emotionally, it’s a whole lot better place than being young ever was.

" Because I felt like it” is a good enough reason for doing something. “Because it was there” really is a viable reason for going somewhere. You can say “just because” any time you feel like it because ... well, just because.

Then there is aging’s learning curve. About coming to know that the calendar that hangs in the laundry room is necessary, not decorative, because the truth is that I can no longer remember even the most basic of appointments. If my daughter asks me to pick the kids up after school on Thursday and it is only Monday when she calls, I tell her to call me again Wednesday night because I know I will forget and I am afraid I won’t check the calendar. While I can stand the idea of missing a hair appointment, I can’t bear the thought of my grandsons waiting for the Nana who doesn’t show up.

I had laser eye surgery, so after 30-some years of wearing glasses to correct extreme nearsightedness, I can see 20/25 without correction and am thrilled to do so. However, I’ve learned to have reading glasses on every table in the house, in every purse I might carry, and in both of our cars. This comes in handy for reading menus, the back blurbs of paperback books, and warning labels on medication.

I’ve learned that if I overuse joints, they will hurt a lot and if I underuse them, they will stiffen up in a matter of hours. I know that, while I can still work eight hours at my job, there is little of me left over for the rest of the day. I could easily come home, shower, and go to bed, although I don’t. Being someone who was unable to sit still for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, I used to sneer at people I considered couch potatoes; only now do I realize they weren’t potatoes at all, merely a long curlicue of peel that’s left after the potato is all used up.

You’ll notice that even with the coolness and the learning, there isn’t a lot of excitement. Sometimes I miss that. I’ll bet you do, too.

On the fiction side of things, I write romance novels and women’s fiction stories. It’s been several years since my last book was published; however, in October of 2006, I got what those of us in the romance industry refer to as The Call, and I found out the third Call is every bit as thrilling as the first one. Trying to keep my voice steady, I sat at the kitchen island with a pen and paper and began to talk to my new editor. I would, in a calm and professional manner, take notes so that I wouldn’t forget anything.

Yup. Sure I would.

Instead, I spent the 10-minute duration of the phone call dancing around the island. When I hung up, my notes consisted of my name and the word “Yes!” And I didn’t care the least little bit. I just danced some more. I went upstairs and composed a blanket email to everyone I know and a few I don’t, giving them my good news, though I didn’t send it. We have dial-up service, and I wanted the phone line left open just in case my husband called.

He did. Within a half hour. I shrieked, “I sold a book! I sold a book!” and danced around the island the whole time we talked. Or while I talked and he laughed and said he was proud of me.

Most of the way through high school and during the early, hysterical years of our marriage, that same husband spent Friday and Saturday nights onstage, playing guitar and singing. I was his groupie, sitting at a table with the other invisible women who were band wives and girlfriends — “Just call me Little Bass,” my sister-in-law used to say. (It prepared me for my bleacher years, when I became “number 40’s mother.”)

Though he no longer performs in public, my husband still plays and sings every day. Long ago, he wrote a few songs, which our children know by heart. They’ve spent their lives singing along with a garage recording of their father. For Christmas this past year, they went together and gave him a few hours in a recording studio.

He was pleased with the gift, but put off using it — “The kids work hard for their money. I don’t want to waste it on something not good.” He practiced playing until his always-callused fingers were sore, and finally made the appointment at the studio. He was typically quiet after the session. “It went all right,” he said. “We’ll see.”

A week or so later, the CD containing his songs was ready. I called him on my way home from work. “How is it?”

"Okay,” he said, but there was something in his voice. Something new.

We went to the store together. I drove, and when he got into the passenger seat, he slipped the CD into the player. We spent over an hour making the 10-minute drive to the store and back. I just kept making turns, driving the four miles that comprise a country block. “Play it again,” I’d say, and we’d sing along and smile at each other.

He delivered a CD to our daughter, emailed the songs to our son who lives halfway across the country, and drove 200 miles to take a copy to our other son. He tried to make them understand what an important gift they’d given him. It was fun. It was, for him, dancing around the island. It was my time to laugh and say I was proud of him, to be his partner in the dance as he had been mine a few months before.

So I’ll continue to write about being older, because I am and because it’s all about learning and coolness and sometimes, oh, precious sometimes, it’s about dancing.


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