What a terrible fright I had this morning. Against my better judgment, I glanced into the bathroom mirror. Looking back at me was the late Walter Matthau, grumpier and more moth-eaten than I remembered.
As your age begins to creep up toward 70 or more, you come to expect such horrors. Occasionally, you even enjoy them.
Sometimes I ponder the liver spots on my left arm. It beats playing Canasta, and you never know what you'll see there. For example, if I connect the dots just right, I clearly see the spitting image of Betty Boop. Or, is it Baby Snooks?
Getting old definitely ain't for sissies. It's not for those without a good imagination, either.
For seniors who have always wanted a tattoo, but couldn't muster the courage even to enter that part of town where tattoo parlors dwell, age provides wild body art, each design appearing without the pain of needle, each bizarrely unique.
Still, I'd prefer a slightly different vocabulary for this lexicon of aging.
Take my liver spots. (Please!) As far as I know, they have nothing to do with my liver. Why not call them "smart spots" or "experience exuberance" or "wisdom warts?"
Maybe not wisdom warts. "Wisdom wiggles?"
My point is that even "geezer gravel" has more class than liver spots.
They say that by our age, we all have the face we deserve. That's why it's simply not wise for coots like me to look into a mirror.
Fifty years ago, like most teens, I spent hours examining my face, ever vigilant as I trolled for zits. Remember? We spotted flaws we didn't even have!
Suddenly Trivia: Baby Snooks & Daddy was a radio program starring a) Lionel Barrymore, b) Fanny Brice, c) W.C. Fields
Today, as long as there's a semblance of a face up there, it's just as well to not get too picky.
Of course, if you're the curious type, there's always something new to behold. Like that dark spot that appeared below my left eye recently. Had I come across such a flaw as a teen, I'd have killed myself. Now, it's "Hmmm. Let's not go there again."
Now my eyebrows have suddenly and without warning taken on the appearance of an overgrown jungle. They look so like Groucho Marx's, I fully expect a duck to drop on my head any time now.
God in His wisdom must have good reason for all these wrinkles, spots, growths, and other indignities of age.
I believe it's His way of teaching us that glamour is but skin deep. I accept what Emerson said: "As we grow old
the beauty steals inward."
More importantly, I sense that this scenic road on which we geezers travel will lead us to the truly important ideals in life: selfless love, worship, humility, and forgiveness. None of these is completely achievable when filtered through a youthful ego. Old age, if we do it right, replaces ego with love. What a joy it is to learn that ego is a fiction, a fiction of fear, and not really us, after all.
Perhaps Tomas Bailey Aldrich said it best: "To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent that is to triumph over old age.
Still, let this be a caution. Avoid mirrors. They lie.
Suddenly Trivia Answer: b) Fanny Brice. She first played the character of Baby Snooks, a mischievous brat, in vaudeville in 1912. Baby Snooks later became a Ziegfeld Follies favorite, and in that character Brice was featured on radio from 1936 until her death in 1951.
© 2003 Frank Kaiser
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