Let me begin with an honest confession: I am thoroughly enjoying my semi-old age. True. I have reached that milestone in the Big Race toward the goal of a happy eternity, at which I am not allowed to fly a commercial jet plane or receive a heart transplant and my GP has ceased to nag me about mammograms. What relief. Chronologically aged out of being taken seriously in the tournament of life, I am delighted to observe action from the cheap seats and have decided against a long-time ambition to climb a very steep hill without oxygen tank. No matter. The highest-up climb I attained, some years past, was driving and walking up to the peak of Colorado's famous Mount Evans, looming in the mist for over 16,200 feet and then some. There used to be a restaurant on top, but it caught fire and wafted away in the smoke because of no water pressure at that level. Now, tourists and former residents like me simply trudge upward to the edge of the world and admire the looming Never-Summer Range off to the west, which resembles a sleeping dinosaur.
Nothing about the western wilderness states is unbeautiful, once one escapes the concrete canyons of cities and begins to scent authentically clean air and discover what water actually tastes like, flowing from a high montane stream. When I lived there, one such stream bubbled over near the top of Bald Mountain in the eastern Front Range, and my children and I washed our hair in it, carried it in buckets uphill to the creaky miner's cabin I had rented, and made passable coffee. Then, true to the finest instincts of any climate-change denier, some brainless tourist dropped a deceased goat in the spring. Never mind how we discovered this, and the water probably runs clear again, these days.
There is no such elder limitation, of course, on the elected occupant of the White House, nor is there likely to be one soon, since several Presidents have amply demonstrated that they could still do statecraft and administration well past 70. It is noted that these men were uniformly happily married, and somebody who cared was looking after the vitamins and limiting the cholesterol in their lunch. I recall the late President (who preferred to be addressed as "General") Eisenhower firmly declaring that "No person over seventy years old should sit in this office, and that I know!" What must the beloved old warrior think of us all, these days? More important: what do we-who-are-well-past the-usual-sell-by date, consider how we may choose to spend the earth time remaining?
That's when it gets to be real fun. No kids at home except for grandkids who visit at selected times, few or no health problems because the baby boomers came along just when America's nutrition awareness began. For entertainment, one or two televised offerings even exhibit real quality, tweaked out from the Babel of constant advertising on screen, and the rest, including most commercials, are genuinely laughable. One pays $70 baksheesh a month to learn of Prince Harry's latest hijinks, the latest Kardashian doings, and the firm opinions of Fox News commentators that the world is going straight to hell with Joe Biden as US head of state. Oh, for the days of "Gunsmoke" and "Have Gun Will Travel," which my grandfather, a veteran, adored, and one has the feeling that the inimitableand permanently ageless "Miss Kitty" is still around somewhere, and stealthily pursuing Matt Dillon to the altar or, more likely, to the bar. Hers. Women in business or professional careers did not become the mainstream norm in the deep south until I was well into young adulthood, married and reproducing kids.
One eye- opening read of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" while monitoring the laundry, and I was "woke" and out the door, never looked back; my only regret is that a fairly nice husband was left in the rearview mirror, but he soon found other companionship, much more suited to the June Cleaver mold. I got freedom as a prize, which is truly to be treasured, the longer one lives and looks around at so many who seem to do so well and yet - lack it. I know precisely who I am. There is no hidden mental genie waiting to surprise me, crawling out of the grey matter and criticizing everyone under the age of 50. And all of them in this age group, since this is after all, Mississippi, now award me and others of my ilk with the unbidden honorific of "Ma'am". Just like the Queen, but she truly deserves it. Skipping on down the road, then, I recall with wicked glee the gentle, well-meant prayer of a young priest who prayed for several of us Communicants during a healing service. Then he got to my name on his list: "May she have peace for the residue (residue!) of her life....."
Worry not, Father Jimmy peace comes pretty easily when one can laugh out loud at youth, naivete and good intentions, which the world could certainly use more of. And tomorrow will be different from today, and most likely bring more joy. I do anticipate it.
Linda Berry is a Northsider.