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Prairie Wool

“Old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I’m a bit of a recluse. Apart from going to work each day, I seldom leave my house and rarely participate in social events. Perhaps it comes with age, as I wasn’t always like this, but I’m content to hide from Old Man Winter before a roaring fire in my prairie hermitage. 

*Hermitage: the dwelling of a hermit, especially when small and remote. (Oxford Dictionary)

Perhaps this tendency to lurk in the shadows, far away from the city’s bright lights, is for the best, as, lately, I’ve noticed an alarming trend whenever I go out. Let me tell you about it.

Several weeks ago, my family met for dinner at a well-known restaurant. It’s not something we often do. Actually, we never do it, but that’s not important right now. The story I wish to tell was of another family who sat nearby, enjoying one another and a fine meal.

I watched them with interest. The parents of three young children looked on indulgently as gray-haired grandparents played with the kids. The older folks looked like a typical elderly couple who likely lived in a retirement village and met with their peers to play a quiet game of shuffleboard Tuesday nights in the common room. They didn’t move too fast, huffed with effort when bending over, and frequently asked people around them to repeat themselves. Nothing whatsoever wrong with this picture. It was lovely.

Lovely, that was, until I looked a little closer, frowned, took off my glasses to polish them, and squinted at the couple again.

“What’s that?” I said in a distracted voice as my sister-in-law, Linda, asked a question close to my ear. (I hadn’t heard her.) Slowly and with an audible groan, I turned to answer, then painfully, since I have a bum knee and a bad back, I edged back onto my seat to realize with horror that I knew that senior couple sitting across from me. I’d attended bloody school with them! Argh.

The same was true last time I stood in a store lineup. It was like a flippin’ high school reunion. Once upon a time, my cronies and I might have chatted as we stood in line to enter the cinema, a concert or waited to have our ID checked before sashaying into a cool new nightclub. Now we lean heavily on grocery carts, exchanging information on the condition of our bunions, arthritis, and blood pressure as we shuffle up to the pharmacy counter to be doled out our monthly allotment of pills. What the heck!

Here’s another tale to consider. It was a warm autumn day the last time I drove the school bus for a field trip. I felt good. It was a vital, energetic, spring-in-my-step kinda good. In other words—not old. Enter a pack of kids and a museum.

Don’t get me wrong, having the knowledge to answer kids’ questions about how things used to be back in the olden days feels nice. Sort of. It’s just, when you look around a museum, by definition a place bursting with artifacts of a bygone era, and you recognise every antique item as having been a functional component of your childhood home, it’s kind of upsetting. With slumping shoulders, I scuffled out at the end of our visit, feeling I’d aged twenty years. 

However, as my title states, old age will always be defined as fifteen years older than me. So I’m still good to go.

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