XC. The Swinger

Friday, October 26, 2012 — I went to our big, local senior center the other day.  I arrived at lunchtime.  The vast hall, reminiscent of an elementary school cafetorium, was filled with large round tables and had come to a rolling boil of seniors dining and chattering over clashing dishware and jangling flatware.  I was there to meet with the various women who would help me set up my two December book presentations (one for the caregivers’ morning group and one for their evening group). I also filled out the form about income and how many meals I eat a day, wrote them a check for $15.00 and joined the center. This is the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, Delaware. It is a multi-tasking, rambling, substantially funded affair: “Oh, we just built that additional building last year.”

I walked to the desk to ask directions to the women’s offices. The woman behind the desk said, “Aoshgjk uioepws.” I thought maybe she was Turkish. “What?” I asked.  My left ear has been closed for two weeks, and with all those people in the room chattering …, I fit right in; I couldn’t hear any better than any of those geezers.  I looked around at all of them.  They’re all so old, I thought.  I will tell you this, though, if you, a woman my age, want to get looks from every man in the room, go to a senior center.

I met with the women to set up my presentations. I learned that there are caregivers centers funded by our state and this Modern Maturity Center hosts one. Through this caregivers organization which has existed since 2002, I could have gotten respite care for Emma, payable based on income, the balance paid with state Medicaid grant funds, before I got standard Medicaid respite care through the state; in other words, they could have provided me with help before I got help – right away rather than my waiting months for our state Division of Aging to get up out of their rocking chairs and away from their computers. Although this caregivers center has been announced and promoted via the media, I think I was so busy and stressed simply taking care of Emma I didn’t notice this availability or didn’t know where to look. So, be aware when you become a caregiver – and chances are good that you will – that you must look beyond the obvious. Go to your senior center first; they can give you the best direction. I didn’t do this. Why? Probably because I didn’t want to get involved with a lot of old people.

Of interest, the center has just initiated, on their enclosed porch, a group called “Front Porch,” for Alzheimer’s/dementia beginners. (Doesn’t that sound awful? – “Oh, I’m just an Alzheimer’s beginner.”) Front Porch is for those in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, those who don’t quite get the whole discussion or who cannot remember small things. The sessions are geared to their level.

Before I left the center, I made plans to give a writers workshop starting after the first of the year; that is, if anyone signs up.  I understand that at first only a few sign up, and then for the next session, more, as word spreads. I should expect $10 per person per six-week session, they tell me.  That’s my 60 percent cut; the center keeps the remaining 40 percent. So let’s hope I’m a success.  Oh, and I should offer the workshop attendees some sort of premium for signing up – like cookies or note pads from the dollar store, I’m told.

When I got home, my friend Jackie came and candled my ears.  My left ear is still closed, but better.  It will take about a dozen candles to clear, I think.  Hopefully I exaggerate. Jackie is coming back another day.  We have Hurricane Sandy coming Monday and Jackie had to go get her mother-in-law, who has dementia, out of Cape May, New Jersey, supposed to receive a direct hit from the storm, to nearby Maryland here. What a pleasant, relaxing experience the ear candling is.  Jackie is expert.

I primed myself the night before I went to the center by watching one of the best ever movies for old people – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – poignant, humorous, and perfect for us young old-agers – those of us in our 60s and 70s.  It is insightful, honest and very well done – the British return to India, as one reviewer put it – with Dev Patel and a cast of venerable British actors – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton – the list goes on.

Up until a few years ago, I thought old people just got old and tired and didn’t want to do much, didn’t fall in love, weren’t interested in sex. When I was in my 40s I was amazed that Emma and my stepfather, in their 70s, got divorced. Why would they do that when they’re already so old? I wondered. The truth is, as demonstrated by this movie, that maybe your body gets old but your mind doesn’t; it still thinks like that of a 10 year old, and you still have those desires, feelings and feistiness; you want to be useful in life.

I cite myself as an example. All of my neighbors are out riding bikes in the nice weather. I wanted to go out bike riding, too, so I got a bike, a used one, a cruiser.

I’m a swinger. I attended a potluck near home this past Sunday, when after eating we went to the local elementary school grounds and played a ball game where one-by-one, team members get eliminated, like chess pieces. I was the first eliminated, wouldn’t you know. So being old and tired I walked over and sat on a swing. And then I began to swing. And I swung higher and higher, and higher and higher. How free I was, and felt my exercising muscles massaging my organs. I haven’t swung since I was, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10. What intrigued me was that my mindset that got me on the swing matched my mindset at 10; as does that of my bike riding. I think hereafter I will ride my bike over to the school and go swing.

Orhan Pamuk in his novel The Museum of Innocence has his protagonist, who is counting the days and weeks and months until he rendezvous with his lover again, bundle the time; that way the time goes faster, or seems less expansive. So, six is a small number: it was only six decades ago that I was 10, a bike-riding swinger eyed by the boys.

—Samantha Mozart

4 Responses to XC. The Swinger