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If you should live long enough …

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When did it happen?

I can’t figure it out.

My children are beginning to correct me in public. My daughter tells me, “Mother, don’t act that way. You’re acting like an old person. Don’t wear that! You’ve got to get rid of that! Don’t say that — old people do that. Be kind. You are embarrassing us.”

I remember the day when I was the mother and they were the children, and I corrected them. They did things that embarrassed me and I corrected them in public. It was my place to make sure they didn’t eat with their mouths open, that they dressed properly, and I’d tell them what to say: You need to apologize, you need to say thank you, and you need to be polite.

Now the tables have turned.

My daughter says to me, “Mother, we are not going to let you get old.”

She fusses with my hair in public, straightens my shirt and tells me I need to get on the treadmill.

I realize it’s all for my own good. I used to know what was for my own good, but now my children are telling me.

I was standing in line at Costco. An older lady, probably 80 years old, was standing in front of me arguing with the young, 20-year-old clerk. The lady had ordered a pizza with everything on it.

The young girl said, “Do you mean a supreme?”

The older lady in her crustiness said, “I said everything. I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years, and when I said everything, they knew what everything meant.”

“So you want a supreme.” The girl started rattling off the toppings.

The woman said, “I said everything. You kids today don’t know anything.”

I looked at the poor young girl at the counter. This lady had just ruined her day.

I thought to myself, “I don’t ever want to be that way. Old people speak their mind and they don’t care who they hurt. Am I doing that?”

The way my children are correcting me lately, maybe I’m doing the same thing.

Years ago, I remember Al’s mother. She was from Texas — proud of it — and told everyone. She talked loud and embarrassed all of us. Her voice carried for miles. She would tell the cashier all her problems and ailments and her voice reverberated through the whole store. She didn’t care who heard. In fact, I think she rather enjoyed being heard.

I’d tell Al, “Those cashiers don’t want to hear about your mother’s problems or if she is regular or not. Why does she do that? What is that all about?”

I remember someone correcting her. They told her she was too loud.

She said, “I’m not going to suppress my lungs for anyone and I’m proud to be a Texan.” Then she would relay the story to everyone: “Nobody’s going to tell me what I should say or not say.”

Oh me, I believe this next phase of life is just beginning. I guess you can go two ways: you can become childlike or be cantankerous and obnoxious.

My desire has been to grow old in grace.

I don’t think it’s happening.

Our children think my Sweet Al is so cute and getting cuter all the time. He’s wearing his pants high and his favorite red socks, which he wears all the time.

I tell Al, “Don’t go to the girl’s work. They are working and you will get them in trouble.” He goes anyway. They are glad to see him.

I tell him, “Don’t take Daisy, (our daughter’s dog), by her work. She’s busy.” He does it anyway. She thinks he is so cute, and so do the other cashiers.

He picked up two pairs of orange coveralls at a garage sale. I told him he shouldn’t wear them to town, they will think he has just escaped from the county jail and they will arrest him. He doesn’t listen. He wears them anyway. My daughters think their daddy is the cutest thing ever in his orange coveralls.

Our other daughter was telling me how cute this older couple was. She said she wanted to cry — the little old man reminded her of her daddy. He was pushing the cart for his wife, he was carrying his wife’s white purse over his shoulder and she was shopping.

I don’t get it. They think their daddy is cute and they think I’m this old person who needs to be corrected, and fixed up before I go out in public. And that I need to get back on the treadmill. They’re not looking at me with the same adoring eyes.

Final brushstroke: I guess things come back around if you live long enough. My children are not seeing me as cute. They are insisting that I should be this new 50 in this 70-year-old body and mind.

It ain’t working very well.

Artist’s quote

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou, author and poet.

Readers’ comments 

Send in your comments. I’m surely not the only one who is experiencing this new phase of life. E-mail betty@bettyslade.com.

This story was posted on August 22, 2013.