What's it like to be 82?
A mixed blessing.
Like I'm finally comfortable with how I look. No diets for me. No Botox. On the other hand, my social calendar depends too much on funerals of lifelong friends.
But aren't you nervous about your own, er, mortality?
No. When I was 16, I was nervous about everything--boys, pimples, holding up my stockings with a garter belt. I absolutely never thought of myself as departing this world. Why start now?
But at 82, you must have aches? Pains?
A few twinges, yes. I limp a little. I wear trifocals. I have trouble cutting my toenails. But I enjoy my evening glass of chardonnay, eat heartily and fall asleep on a dime.
Still, you're no--
--spring chicken? We're living longer these days, dear heart. I have a friend who just turned 100. A few years ago, she published a book of her poems. Look at this picture of her on the cover.
She's a good-looking dame--for her age.
She is good-looking, and she's ageless.
But don't you secretly wish you were younger?
Wouldn't wish being younger on anyone. When you're young, you panic. You want everything, and when you get something, you wonder how to get rid of it.
Especially love. Oh, the agony, the distress. It's not until you're older that--
Like 82? Don't tell me that--?
Yes. At 82, even older, love can and does bloom.
I don't want to hear it. It embarrasses me to think my parents had sex.
Have sex, you mean.
You're awfully bold.
That's the liberating thing about being my age. I can be candid.
Easy for you. What do you have to lose?
Everything that matters. My spirit, my conscience, my faith in goodness.
You're an idealist? At 82?
Especially at 82. All those decades should have taught my generation something. The wars. The Great Depression. The--
Your generation. The great sufferers.
No. The grateful sufferers. We laugh a lot.
Don't you ever cry?
Often. I cry when I'm angry at cruelty, unfairness. I cry when I'm happy, at beauty, generosity. I cry at my past failures and beg forgiveness for past wrongs. I'm the Alice in Wonderland of my age group, swimming in my tears.
What about fears?
I have my share, don't you? I'm afraid I've run my charge card beyond its limit. Again. Afraid my '88 car will give out when I'm gunning it in the carpool lane without a passenger. I'm afraid I'll get crabby, or taciturn, or gushy, or forgetful.
What about your children?
You had to ask. They're my soft spot. They're all scattered. Sometimes I wake at night and pretend we're together playing Monopoly, or the little great-granddaughters are showing me their ballet routines. I ache for them.
But you're fiercely independent. You live alone.
Don't give me too much credit. It wasn't by choice. When I was first thrust into that role, I was afraid of everything--failure in my work, failure in my relationships. My middle name was fear.
But you're not afraid to die?
I intend to kick and scream against the grim man with the scythe 'til my very last breath--because I love this life.
With all its pain? You can't read the daily newspaper without--
--reading stories of brave, noble people. They just don't get the headlines, and their pictures aren't gruesome. We like gruesome. We need beauty.
You're a dreamer. You don't know what it is to be hurt, to lose, to fail.
I do know. And I'm still here. "How about them apples?" as we used to say.
And you're gloating.
Not gloating. Just quietly pleased. The rough-and-tumble years have gone. There's a new sweetness to my days. A quietness. A calm. But not too calm.
You mean things still get you riled?
Plenty of things. War. Poverty. Abuse, Loneliness. People who love their God but they don't love your God. They love their race, but they don't love your race. They love their country but they don't love your country. Plenty of things. I've had some good fights. There's something grand about being in the middle of a fracas. You work hard. You sweat. You drop with weariness. But the victory is lovely.
Any victories in particular?
The civil rights movement. Glad that one occurred in my lifetime. And the women's movement. No victory is ever final, of course. And you can find a new cause around every bend.
You like being a rabble-rouser?
Sweet, peaceful me? Well, yes, I do. When I pop off this earth, I'd like to be a professional rabble-rouser for justice in the afterlife.
That'll get you thrown out of heaven quick.
Who says I'm going there?
You're awfully sassy for 82.
That's the nicest thing you've said all day.