I’m a little-to-a-lot older than the friends I once agreed to alert to the personal disintegration they could expect as the years passed. Two of them are gone now. I’m sure they’d have some alerting of their own to pass on to me if they could. That’s OK though. I’m willing to wait and find out for myself.

In my senior advisory position, when the time came I was able to personally illustrate unruly eyebrows and stray chin hairs, and — when my friends’ time came — to warn them against waxing and instruct them in the art of plucking instead. When I was no longer shaving my legs on a daily basis, I assured them it was not a bad thing, that the time would come when they’d throw their razors away — and that day did come to pass.

When more than the occasional white hair appeared among their blonde/brunette/auburn locks, I advised them to seek professional help rather than dye their own hair. When one of them ignored my sage advice, I was there with coffee and comfort while her hairdresser tried to save what was left.

When friends noticed the pull of gravity was taking its toll on my upper arms, jowls and mole-splattered neck, I reminded them that gravity was also the force that kept our feet anchored to the ground and suggested they embrace it. Cosmetic surgery is not an option. It’s expensive and painful and there’s no guarantee it won’t lower a woman’s IQ. Look what it did to Pelosi!

Time began to wobble as the years passed, and friends noticed my mind was not always in the same time frame my physical self appeared to be. When the word I meant to say wasn’t the word that fell from my lips they rallied around to help, though there came a time when all our heads working together weren’t any better than one.

We cross-referenced with Google for a while after that, and when our digital senses dimmed we resorted to hotlines shared with younger, more agile brains. If our grandchildren couldn’t help us recall a name, a date or a time, our hairdressers generally could.

And then came the to-do lists. We learned to jot down each entry legibly, to keep the day’s list close by and consult it often, and to check off each chore as it was completed. At the end of the day we shredded that list to avoid repeating those same chores the next day.

In the end, though, the most useful lesson any of us learned was to call a friend when we felt our ability to laugh at ourselves slipping away. A sense of humor is essential on the other side of the hill, and real friends help each other hang on.



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