"Old age ain't for sissies." Bette Davis
At ages 85 and 92 my parents are platinum-card-carrying Senior Citizens. Mom and Dad are slowing down a bit, but they're remarkably youthful in many ways. They still live in their condo on the grounds of a private golf resort in Boca Raton. Independent Dad won't even consider a retirement community because, "Those places are full of old people."
They have a cleaning lady who cooks dinner in a pinch while Mom, nearly blind, supervises preparation of any special dishes for entertaining. And hooboy, can Mom still shop til I'd drop.
When Dad turned 90 he had to take a driver's test again. Not just the driving part, the written test too. He passed with flying colors. To celebrate, he bought a new car. But he's wise enough to stay off I 95. And he's no longer the speed demon I remember.
If you're a Baby Boomer, I hope you're lucky enough to have parents who are alive, active and still sentient. It does however, come with a price.
Not a small thing, believe me.
You need patience to stay in your parent's house--just for a visit--decades after you've made a home of your own. To gracefully accept unsolicited advice about your marriage, your children, your clothes, your hairstyle, your career. The list is as long as ever.
You need patience to listen to stories about people you don't know. Although to be fair, some of my parent's stories are pretty good. My two personal favorites:
It's another world. A different mind set. A sun-drenched moonscape littered with expired expectations and desiccated dreams. So, no matter how droll the stories, the key to sanity is still Patience.
• The wealthy but frugal couple who love Boston Chicken but hate paper and plastic. So when hosting my folks there for dinner, they bring their own place settings -- china, silver, crystal, table linens and wine. The works.
• The 80-year old man who's much in demand for night driving because "he's the youngest."
You especially need patience to deal with your parents' medical issues -- which cause so much impatience in these once-vigorous people whose bodies and minds find new ways to betray them almost daily.
It makes them cranky. They argue about everything and nothing. They snap at each other and you. Their frustration bubbles over at the slightest inability to remember a word, find a lost item, hear clearly the last thing you said.
You need lots of patience to help them cope as they experience the inexorable decline that's the downside to living longer. It's hard for them to live with the cruel reality of old age. And it's very hard to watch it happen to people we love.
Plus, let's face it, we can't relate yet to facing the final curtain. We're still in our own second act. We're younger (in this context we Boomers are blessedly youthful), living busy, productive lives. So visiting the land of the elderly is an endless exercise in patience.
The Super Bowl of patience is A Visit To The Doctor. If you've ever accompanied a parent to a medical appointment in Florida, you know why they call the state--and every doctor's office in it--"God's Waiting Room."
It's frankly scary. Because that's where it hits you -- someday those shambling, hocking, skinny-legged, EKG-toting, hearing-aid-wearing, milky-eyed aliens will be us.
If we're lucky.
My parents are lucky. Plus, they work at it. They continue to tackle and engage life with gusto, brio... and, okay, some Pepto.
Sure, Dad takes afternoon naps but is then energized enough to hit the stationery bike and do a round on the weight machines. And Mom walks 2 miles on the treadmill, carrying hand weights. They both swim, and walk back and forth in the pool, almost every day.
They do the crossword puzzle together every morning. Both are active in raising money and support for charities, especially my mother's personal cause, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, as a hedge against passing her Macular Degeneration on to us.
They travel. They play bridge. They handle their finances, shop, cook, go to movies, plays, concerts and lectures.
And if there's a big party, they get all dressed up and dance the night away.
Because if you're wondering about the title of this piece ... to the Seniors of Boca Raton, 'Boca Midnight' is local code for 10 PM.
And if you're smiling, think about this: when was the last time you stayed up past midnight in black tie and high heels -- or even jeans and flip-flops?
No matter where we live, we're approaching our own Boca Midnight faster than we'd like to think. I only hope to get there with as much grace and dignity as my parents.
But I'm in no hurry. I've learned to have patience.
[Adding this to all posts from now on... Hey kids, don't forget to Rate!]