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fantasizing about growing old

Lucia Frangione: last evening show of Farewell my LovelyI am going to be home in less than forty four hours. My niece Hunter said, “Oh, it is so sad that you will be leaving us, Auntie Cia.” And little Scarlette said, “Yes. Sad but also happy. I get my room back.”

I am distracted. I have many papers to mark and plays to dramaturge and drafts to rewrite and all I can do is think of my Nora’s birthday party coming up, pickling the beets in the garden, what meal I am going to cook first for my Fellow and his boy. The art of life is downstage, the art of theatre is upstage. My fellow phones me for the third time today to say, “Soon you will be here and we begin.

We will begin.

I rarely used to think about the future and now I rarely think about the past. Mostly I am in the present. I take this as a good sign. Ecclesiastes would approve. But never before did I use to imagine what it would be like to grow old with someone. Today, I amuse myself, imagining my fellow as a very old man, well into his nineties. I see his ears, eyebrows and nose outgrow the rest of his dear face. I see teeth that start to resemble amber. I see wide muscled shoulders now gaunt with a chest that appears melted, skin stretching down towards a tiny round belly. I imagine him naked at this age, having completely lost his bottom, shaving, sprinkling shards of silver in the sink. I see gnarled toe nails that I am compelled to cut because it is too difficult for him to reach.
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And this is when I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. Shocked, always, to see I am the same age as him. I have kept my long hair despite my daughter’s protestations. It is thin and white but I love it and I wear it long when I damn well feel like it, with red lipstick that bleeds into the tributaries around my mouth. I am wearing a very brightly coloured silk robe and my favourite slippers that have feathers on the toes. I probably, at this point, have taken up casual smoking in the garden and drinking gin and tonics at four because I am no longer concerned about my health. I imagine my friend Anita lives in the suite upstairs and we watch our BBC together and drink our fancy drinks and poke at the garden. I imagine I am terrified every time she comes down those stairs with her spindly legs. She wears very funky glasses and still works on the stage because her mind is so sharp. I imagine she has remarried an Italian named Franco who is scandalously younger than she is. They spend half their time here and half their time in the cinque terra.
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I imagine my fellow still eats bacon and still drives the car. And he still climbs ladders even though he has fallen off of them more than once. He still holds my hand when we walk in the forest. He still says, “Such a beautiful woman, my Cia…” despite the fact my breasts probably hang down to my belly button by now like two triangular tent flaps. And we still please each other in ways that the average person would not care to know.

I am, by now, an expert baker and gardener. But he sometimes has to turn the oven off for me. Or the kettle. Or unplug the iron. I am likely a hazard to our health. I probably use a cane because I have operated on both knees by the age of seventy and now the replacements are wearing out. I have been encouraged to use a walker for balance, but I refuse, of course. A cane is elegant, a walker is an aesthetic assault. We still live in our home, probably an acreage on one of the islands or a heritage house off Commercial Drive that we are still paying off. Our children worry, “What if you have a fall?” And we wink and say, “Better to fall and die at home than linger with strangers and the smell of bleach.” We drive them a little bit crazy.

We go to church and we go to the theatre and everyone around us is kind but a little patronizing. They have completely forgotten that he used to save lives and I used to save souls. My plays are out of print and he is thirty years retired. I still write, but I don’t have the head for long plots. I write smatterings all over the house on little fluttery pieces of white paper, like moths. All we really have is a terrific collection of Canadian art and stories for our great grandchildren. Only one of them is interested. The one I try not to favour, but I know she is a writer at heart.

He has a neighbour boy he pays to portage our canoe down to the shore. We have a paddle into the sunset. He is still strong in that way that strong men contain. We wear life jackets. Not for ourselves, but for each other.

This sort of imagining is beautiful to me because it is very possible. Suddenly aging seems something other than disastrously inevitable. It now seems rather wonderful because it comes with a legacy of love.14be11a14363a97fbb1abb3fac6f

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