Aunt Kay is 92 today and she’s an inspiration. She’s a testament to inner strength and the adage that attitude is everything. Kay’s still drinking from a half full glass and, sometimes, that glass has wine in it. She’s not always had the easiest times, but she lives in a state of gratitude and that’s been a recipe for her happiness and probably even her longevity. She’s still remarkably beautiful and, although diminutive in size, she’s got a heart the size of the ocean.
Kay is Mom’s sister-in-law and close friend. They both dislike words like “cute,” “spunky” and “spry” because those words have implied meanings of old age. “Who calls a young person, spry?” “Oh don’t you hate it when they call you, ‘cute’, Ginny?” They have a point. Regardless, it’s no baloney that like fine wine, in many ways, Kay gets better with age.She’s physically not what she used to be and she knows it. But instead of bemoaning, she’s laughing at her physical ailments and deteriorating functioning and cracking me up. too. We’re hanging out together the other night and she refrains from smoking like a train because she knows it bothers me. “I know I shouldn’t,” she tells me once, as she takes a long drag, “But I am 92 and it’s not shortening my life.” Even I can’t argue with that.
Kay’s eyesight is nearly gone and she reads through a magnifying glass. She tells me I look like I am 38, and I am preening like a peacock until I remember that she’s blind as a bat. Paradoxically, she can always seem to spot a hot guy. When my friend William spent a Thanksgiving with us a few years ago, Kay walks in the house with her daughter, takes one look at William, and whispers to me as she sashays past me, “Nice job. Next year bring three more.” Kay uses the word “delicious” for a handsome man. I like it.
Kay and I spent an evening together this week that I will never forget. My sides were splitting from the aging dialogue. I was laughing at Kay, which was her intention. My aunt is telling me about the many indignities of aging. “Your mother is complaining about wrinkles,” she tells me. You can tell she thinks Mom is an aging amateur if this is her complaint. “Every night I take out my teeth and boob and I can’t see a damn thing.” Your boob? I ask. And right then and there, Kay reaches into her blouse and whips out a prosthetic breast.
“I lost the damn thing once,” she tells me. ” I couldn’t find it anywhere.” She tells her daughter about the missing boob. Meg, like the rest of us, is wondering how anyone can lose a boob. “Meg says to me, who would take a boob? Kay explains. ” I’ll tell you who,” she shoots back at me, ” Bubba!” Bubba is their dog. They found Kay’s missing boob in Bubba’s crate.
“Thank God, I still have it up here,” Kay says, pointing to her head. She’s got that right; Kay’s as sharp as a tact. She doesn’t miss a thing. She’s probably mentally sharper than I and has better recall. I’m telling her a story the other night and I start veering off the path rather seriously. In fact, I am so far off, I am lost and have no idea where I started. Kay’s regarding me seriously yet softly. She’s trying to help me retrace the breadcrumbs back to my starting point. It can’t be done. There is zero recall. I am unsure who is more concerned at this point, Kay or me. She’s got an expression on her face that I read to mean- “For God’s sake, I am the one who should be forgetful!” But I can also tell Kay’s rooting for me as I meander back through my thoughts, trying to remember my original point. I draw a blank and dismiss it. (except it’s bugging me).
I share with Kay that the mind is a computer and the subconscious mind will always keep trying to retrieve any missing data. That explains random recall, when suddenly the missing information seems to magically appear and we blurt out things like “Burt Bacharach! Daffodils, not tulips, Daisy Buchanan!” These are important bits of information only because they validate that we’re not, in fact, losing our minds. Being unable to recall unimportant facts only becomes important when they appear to be signs of memory failure.
“I’ll think of it tomorrow,” I reassure Kay. You can tell Kay’s a bit bothered for me. I really believe she’d rather be the one addled minded rather than me. Kay escorts me to the back sliding glass door, moving slowly with the walker she depends on more these days. I tell her I love her, because I do, but she’s can’t possibly understand how much. She always replies the same, “I love you more.”
I’m not even to the car when the answer appears and I begin to laugh out loud and run back to the door. Kay’s still fiddling with the locks and when she sees me, she shouts through the glass, “You remembered!” We’re cracking up, and I and I tell her that when I come to make her breakfast in the morning, I’ll tell her the story about the number 932. Kay’s visibly happy for my memory victory and I am laughing all the way home.
The next morning I call Kay to tell her I’ll be over to make her coconut pancakes. Kay answers the phone, “932.” We both laugh. “See, I am not so old.”
Laughter is the best medicine for any of life’s ailments and Kay and Mom are the best examples of that fact.
Happy Birthday, beautiful Kay. You delight me, inspire me, amaze me and crack me up.