At 78, Birthdays More Difficult to Celebrate
Essayist Alice Furlaud turned 78 years old today, and she hasn't been looking forward to this date with much pleasure.
ALICE FURLAUD: Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end, we recited in our 10th grade English class. What did we 15-year-olds know or care about Shakespeare's hastening minutes? Old age wasn't going to happen to us. We were going to be young forever, so I shouldn't have been fazed too years ago when a friend - I'll call Pam(ph) - called to rave about her college freshman daughter's costume party. The theme was old folks.
The guests were all college students dressed up with white wigs and crutches and walkers and acting Alzheimerish. Pam is a new friend; she's a clever, beautiful, divorced artist and a devoted mother of three. She told me how proud she was of her daughter for doing such a great imitation of an old woman. I felt that I wasn't precisely the person to appreciate this call being 76 years old. It's been so long since I was a college freshman that it didn't occur to me that in 1947, I might well have gone to a costume party dressed up as an old hag. I'd have blacked out half my teeth - a trick I learned acting in plays at Harvard.
Last year, Pam called to ask me if her youngest - a 14-year-old boy I'll call Latham(ph) - could interview me the next day for an eighth grade English assignment. I was flattered to be chosen until, it turned out, the assignment was to interview an old person - any old person. Oh, dear.
Latham turned out to be a very nice boy. Looking about six-feet tall, he cheerfully barged in the door ahead of his mother and preceded me into the living room; this amazed me - my age again. I'm told that feminism has decreed that it's demeaning to women when doors are held open for them.
Latham was obviously bored by the questions the teacher had assigned to the whole class. When I asked him the reason for this assignment, he muttered something about kindness to elders. But his mother sat about five feet away looking proud as punch. After his last question - I think it was what chores did you have to do - I asked Latham a question. Did he remember his sister's age-related costume party? Latham and his mother both burst out laughing. They laughed and laughed and laughed.
A few weeks ago, Pam called me and asked if her daughter, Bernadette(ph), could interview me for a class assignment. Bernadette is a dazzlingly intelligent senior in high school. So even though I was about to turn 78 - an age much too close to 80 for comfort - I didn't guess what the assignment was. But you have guessed it, my aged and toothless, deaf, wrinkled, forgetful fellow fogies, the assignment was to interview an old person - any old person.
For NPR News, I'm Alice Furlaud, doddering away on Cape Cod.
SEABROOK: Well, we wish you a happy birthday anyway, Alice.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.