I'm old, not in spirit but old none the less.
Young, it was so short a time ago. Then, young, was forever.
When did it become so, being old? Was it when pop culture figures were unfamiliar, when I knew more dead than alive, when none my age were present at an event? Was it when a seat was offered, a door opened, a senior discount given? Or was it when I preferred to sit than stand, stay home at night, take a nap in the afternoon, retire early to bed? Becoming old, it never seemed to happen but then suddenly did.
Born, I grew up, married, became a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother! Oh God, I’m a great-grandmother. Near seventy, three score and ten., it’s an old woman, no? Makeup’s art can’t conceal time’s claim on mirror’s reflected face. Some peers preen and prate it’s the new fifty. They lewdly flirt, old woman clowns who flutter about and only obtain males distain interest. I don’t challenge their self-deception. I know, old is old, no matter what we pretend. I understand, who wants an old woman. Why lie? I’ve spent a life doing so. Now, I want to bask in reality’s harsh glare. I’m an inconspicuous passerby, a white hair shadow among the throng, the little old lady (LOL)?
I dress for respect, wear my years with grace but fashion’s forsaken me. Female tattoos I abhor are in while red lipstick and nail polish I adore fade out. Now there’s no gloves for age spot hands, hat for thin gray hair, lace curtain to conceal a wrinkled face. Even a fur to ward off an old woman’s chill is taboo.
I dress for respect, wear my years with grace but understand, who wants an old woman? I accept, to the young I’m an inconspicuous passerby, a white hair Q tip among the throng, a little old lady (LOL). To the young, I’m not relevant, not really here, no matter how I dress. An invisible, that’s me.
If there’s a second glance, if again I’m somebody, it’s by an old man. Our fleeting smiles sigh.
If young, would we, could we?
Instead we shuffle past and reminisce of when we did.
It matters not, what I do or think. My earth trek’s time consumed can’t be denied, old age is now here.
Elderly, however, have pleasures too. While time’s minute hand moves faster as life’s clock accelerates and the clock spring wind down, I’m no longer rushed. I enjoy daily dilatory rituals of morning coffee and afternoon tea, read books and watch old movies once too busy for and enjoy my garden. There’s no need to rush. I’ll hear the Banshee’s wail soon enough.
I enjoy these pleasures but also sublime, ones, candid introspective insight, knowledge of who I really am, contentment of a life lived, all enhanced with a patina of delightful memories. With aged perspective, I shift through my life’s midden of recollections to re-live my life anew. As I shift through the past, I discover family, friends and a self I never knew. It pleases most but it’s a pleasure tinged with betrayal’s guilt.
A journey to old age starts at birth. It started June 8, 1950, in Santa Clara Valley, California, where I grew up. Like the farm house in a pear orchard I greeted the world in, my world’s gone. It was pushed aside to create a new one, Silicon Valley where I’m an alien now. Harried adapting to the swirl of change, I made decisions, deemed unimportant when made. Each experience a pearl. They congealed into my life’s portrait. Strung together they make my life's necklace. Unlike most, however, there’s a secret strand, told in a hidden diary, until now never read, yet my lifelong friend.
Like my husband, I was unfaithful to it with lapses, omissions and lies. By the fireplace’s warmth, a candle’s glow and wine’s comfort, my elderly companions, I re-write my diary with age’s learned insight.
As I re-write I wonder how it became so; life's string of events, the known me versus secret me, two lives in one. How can one hide a 2nd life? Conceived in puberty, she was born crossing adultery’s threshold. Initially I was wracked with guilt but with time, guilt waned. I learned to love her. She was me, not all but an intricate part, the hidden me who flitted to elicit pleasures with wings of guile. Only I knew her foibles, hidden from all but me.
We all have secrets, dark wishes, forbidden fantasies, convenient lies, selfish omissions but minor ones, forgotten as made. It's the big lie, the hidden life, the double agent act few know. That’s my secret puppet shadow, a lifelong lie. Like a spy, those who knew and trusted me, knew me not. They loved me while my secret puppet shadow betrayed them, over and over.
Secrets yearn to out, no? It's true. Bottled up a lifetime, she yearns to blurt forth, no demands release from her mind cellar confine to make me one, not two. So, I write, compelled. Entering a salacious memory, my mirror's reflection gives a Mona Lisa smile. I’m telling you the amours behind the smile, in graphic detail.
I tell her story without denials and with hindsight’s difficult truth. When I close a chapter, I return to who I’m now, LOL, unless I have another glass of wine. Then my memory's amorous puppet shadow remains alive, if only in my tipsy mind until sleep takes me.
Life's twists and turns have taught what once I knew, were things untrue. Late at night, awake before sleep, unable to do so, the past drifts randomly before me. With the scrutiny of age’s honest reflection my life’s story requires revision.
I plead guilty, not innocent. I was selfish, hypocritical, narcissist, libidinous, manipulative, vindictive, even mean. I lied to and betrayed those loved and risked all for my secret puppet shadow, who I must admit, I loved most. Hard to accept and more so to say but it’s true. I’m guilty.
While I don’t judge myself evil, was I truly tested? I did things which could have forced me to do evil, unforgivable evil.
Would I have killed to evade illicit exposure? If affair pregnant would I have aborted an unborn child, confessed and destroyed the family loved, deceive my husband to raise one not his?
“What if’s,” we all have them but mine are too frightful to face. I keep them tucked deep in my subconscious. Still they percolate up to interrupt sleep.
Yet, I don't judge myself evil. I crossed a forbidden threshold, experienced a lover’s rush, an erotic high, became addicted and sought again and again the initial crossing euphoria. Like an addict, I lied to and endangered the love of those who loved me and those I loved for my addiction, over and over. That's my sin.
It's better to be lucky than smart, they say. It's true. My secret puppet shadow gambled over and over yet always won despite unwise bets, an accepted lifelong string of undeserved good luck. Does gambling with the devil make me evil? God’s mysterious ways have left me unpunished to await judgement day. I’ll seen then if my luck holds out.
It’s a salacious tale told in lurid detail but to me a philosophical one. I try not to be pornographic, apologize if it offends but it will for some. I don’t confess to an adulterer’s kiss. I’m confessing it all, the mind movie details. It wasn’t a kiss and sex. It was flirts, kisses, hugs, caresses, fondles, licks, grasps, penetrations, spasms, crescendos, withdrawals, even weird games. I confess it all. You are my confessor. You judge, evil or not.
My saga begins with my birth, family, schooling, puberty, engagement and marriage. It provides my wanton background perspective. It ends now, in old age’s acceptance of who I was. In between, are stung my infidelities. Wait until you read the epilog to judge. I may be more like you than you think.
Don't attempt to piece together my confession to discover who I am. I write in an indecipherable code for anonymity. My story tells the truth, as lived and related. The details provide my cloak’s cover. The dairy’s entry time span lapses, omissions, lies are edited as I remember.
Are my revisions subject to future review? All history is. Each day lived, I failed to comprehend what was happening, who I was, what it meant. I amend my past with honest hindsight, yet others remind me of shared events I can’t remember. They in turn often fail to recollect what I recall we did together. What really happened?
Our minds distort life experiences as they occur based on what we think is. Our memory banks then delete, twist and re-imagine things to fit as they become our past. I try to be true but memory keeps shifting as I recollect. It’s not just events which change in fluttering memory but my roles in them. I write, edit, write again and edit again. It wasn’t really that way, or was it? Reality, it’s what’s believed back then, now or tomorrow? I don’t know, a conundrum but I try to tell honestly what happened.
As I sort out life’s jumble, it seems it was all predetermined.
Einstein claimed space and time are interchangeable, the past is now as is the future. Time is an illusion. Instead it’s where you’re at in space. Now, it’s our present location. Did big bang physics predetermine our projection through space, our life predestined at birth? Is each moment we exist a movie picture frame? Are the images God’s movie produced at the moment of the big bang? Is the film reel turning through God’s projector, our infinitely minute lives predetermined one-way road trip acts to a death’s “The End” stop sign? Is this our illusion of time? It seems so.
Or instead, are our lives one of an infinite array of possible universes? Is our universe experienced space movement as potential universe doors open and close by decisions or random chance? A minute change of decision or random chance can result in life or death from the bullet’s trajectory, the drunk driver’s crossed lane, the sidewalk’s sneeze. Our decisions and random chance determine conception too. Is there an infinite number of alternate universes?
It seems so.
Take your pick. It’s movie show.
They say only two things are unavoidable, death and taxes. For space/time, I add another, change. While it may be glacial or volcanic, it’s constant. Even our remembered past changes, a rear-view mirage skewed in the fractured light of recollection as we edit our space/time movie. The past’s hues are adjusted to fit what we think was. So, it is, we are what we think we, past and present but it may not be so.
To understand my story you need to comprehend, I write of a life lived of a space and time gone, even though not so far or long ago. It was in a different world, hard to imagine now. Events and characters remembered move against the candle’s flickering light of memory and the diaries' opaque screen, a Balinese puppet shadow tale.
I couldn’t imagine here and now back there and then. Microwave ovens, personal computers, cell phones and the internet were not predicted by the future experts. Instead they prophesized flying cars, house cleaning robots and trips to Mars.
Back there and then roofs were adorned with aluminum antennas, TV’s were black and white, there were vacuum tubes which required a repair now and then. Kids watched Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club. At night adults watched Lucy and Rickie sleep in separate beds. Father Knew Best, Ed Sullivan frowned at guests and Milton Berle bored the rest.
A black rotary phone sat squat on its little table, its loud ring startled the house.
Kodak’s bulb flashed in your face, for a moment you couldn’t see and the picture taken took a week to view.
Music played on a revolving disk, a needle in its vinyl grove. Juke boxes glowed pastel colors, their music played three hits for a quarter.
Cars were American, each year’s model an awaited event. Only airplanes had seat belts, all walked to the airport gate. There a machine sold flight insurance.
Banks were only open from ten to three, Monday to Friday and observed every holiday. Stores closed Sunday, mom served the week’s dinner best while everyone else except preachers took a rest.
Bottled milk was delivered to your porch, the mailman dropped letters in its slot, a pesky salesman rang its bell, the paper boy threw to hit it and its front door was left unlocked.
Boys played marbles, flew kites and read comic books. Girls skipped rope, played hop scotch and had dolly tea parties. Every kid had a hula-hoop. The family played Monopoly, checkers, and cards. There were no video games.
Children got mumps and measles, polio haunted summer and moms marched for Easter Seal dimes. Doctors advertised cigarettes and you’d walk a mile for a Camel.
Service stations on every busy corner sold cheap gas and had quarter cigarette and dime coke machines plus a glass enclosed phone booth.
They gave free maps and stamps as boot. The mechanic rushed to be of service when you drove over the hose bell, pumped the gas, cleaned the windows and then checked the car’s oil, water and air. He fixed your car when needed on the station’s hydraulic hoist.
Gay meant cheerful, pot was for cooking, porn wasn’t a four-letter word, Catholic Mass was said in Latin, the Pope was Italian, Russians were the enemy and Santa Clara Valley was an agricultural wonder land.
A woman's place was as stay at home wife with kids, her work never done. A man’s place was as employed provider husband, his job a life sentence. Dinner, was a family affair. It was cooked by mom. It was served on the dining room table with dad s at the head. The day’s events were discussed but mention of sex was taboo.
It was a different world though not so far away or long ago, difficult now to comprehend.
Then the “pill” changed women. Computers, silicon wafers, integrated circuits and the internet changed the world. Santa Clara Valley suddenly became Silicon Valley.
Like any story, much is unsaid. You read only what I write. I tell how a young girl turned into a woman and committed a life of adultery. Not how she would today but back then, even if not so long ago. Only women my age will relate. Those young will think me an old crone.
Doesn't every young generation think the old so?
Author Notes: Prologue to longer tale know as Balinese Puppet Shadows