The Oldest Member of the Tribe

by Bella Rum

My granddaughter’s teacher asked the class to draw a picture of how they will look when they are 100-years-old. This is her representation. I’m impressed that she thinks she will still be able to button all those buttons. Apparently one arm will be bigger than the other. Edema maybe?

We spent last weekend with Dad. He’s finally beginning to show the wear and tear of ninety-four years of mostly hard living. I’ve watched his slow decline over the past year with sadness. There have been no middle of the night phone calls or emergency trips to the hospital or life-threatening illnesses, only this slow, inexorable path down the mountain. Lost ground that will not be regained.

It isn’t only his body and mind that have changed. His face has changed, too.You know how toddler’s faces gradually leave behind the soft and rounded curves of babyhood as they give way to the firmer, more angular lines of boyhood? Dad’s face is going in reverse. His high cheekbones and squarish chin have morphed into a doughy, pillowy softness. Even his sharp nose and smooth forehead cannot dispatch the idea that his face is malleable and could be reshaped like a child reshapes his Play-Doh project.

Unbelievably, his incredible biceps remain. He still has arms that a much younger man would envy. I don’t really understand how that is possible but it’s true. Dad has never seen the inside of a gym, and would wonder at the idea of paying a monthly or annual membership fee for exercise. Here’s your exercise.

I’m sure he doesn’t quite understand my yoga class. His broad chest and hard arms were developed by heaving old-fashioned oyster tongs out of the river and dropping their bounty into his boat. And his hands? His huge hands, weathered from years of exposure to the elements, still look as if they could do a days work. You can tell a waterman by his hands until the day he dies. The hands never lie.

I wonder at how slow the process is for some and how lightening-bolt-swift it is for others. It makes me think about those awful legal documents and how I will answer those King Solomon-ish questions. Those would be the same legal documents I swore I was going to deal with months ago – medical directive, living will, etc. I can’t even believe I haven’t taken care of this. It isn’t like me. Or maybe it is, and I don’t want to admit it.

They’re calling for snow tonight but I don’t even believe it. We haven’t seen a single flake the entire winter, and this is the first winter ever that I’m actually prepared. I usually forget to buy kitty litter for the driveway and sidewalk. Once the flakes begin to fall, it’s too late. I can’t ever find a single bag in the stores, but this year is different. I’m smug as can be because Bug reminded me back in August. She actually put it on her calendar to remind Bella to get kitty litter. She left a comment to remind me. So I’ve been prepared since August. Thanks, Bug.