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, 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. It’s an old woman, no?
Makeup’s art can’t conceal my reflected mirror’s time aged face. 70, it’s 3 score and 10, you know. Some peers prate it’s the new 50 and even lewdly flirt. They think they attract male alpha interest but delude themselves as they play the old woman clown. I don’t challenge their self-deception but know, old is old no matter what we pretend. Why lie? I’ve spent a life doing so. Now, I want reality, to bask in truth’s glare.
Fashion’s forsaken me in old age. Female tattoos I abhor are in while red lipstick and nail polish I adore are fading out. Now it’s no gloves for age spot hands, hat for thin gray hair, lace curtain to conceal a wrinkled face. Today only English royal women they grace. Even a fur to ward off an old woman’s chill is taboo.
Still, I dress for respect, wear my years with grace but understand, who wants an old woman, an inconspicuous passerby, a white hair shadow among the throng, the little old lady (LOL), no longer relevant? That’s me. I accept, to the young, I’m not really here. If there’s a second glance, if again I’m somebody, it’s 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, I accept what can’t be denied, my earth trek’s time consumed, old age. Elderly, however, have their pleasures too. While time’s minute hand moves faster as life’s clock accelerates, I’m no longer rushed. I enjoy procrastinated daily rituals of dilatory morning coffee and afternoon tea. I read books and watch old movies once I was too busy for. There’s no need to rush. I’ll hear the Banshee’s wail soon enough.
I enjoy these petty pleasures and others but there are deeper sublime ones, candid insight, introspection, and contentment of a life lived with the patina of delightful memories. With aged perspective, I shift through the midden my life’s recollections. Archeologically reconstructed, I re-live my life anew and discover family, friends and the self I never knew. Family pleases most as I watch them grow, struggle and overcome in life but a pleasure tinged with betrayal’s guilt.
A journey to old age starts at birth. Born on June 8, 1950, in Santa Clara Valley, California, it’s my birth place and where I grew up. Like the pear orchard I greeted the world in my world’s gone, pushed aside to create a new one, Silicon Valley. Its metamorphosis means I’m an alien there.
I harried to adapt to the swirl of change while not understanding. I made decisions, deemed small and unimportant when made, which congealed into my life’s portrait. Each subsequent experience a pearl. Strung together they make my life's necklace. There is, however, 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 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. Was it all predetermined? As I try to sort out my life’s jumble, it seems so.
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.
How can one hide a 2nd life? During puberty she was born during a soapy shower by what the nuns called self-abuse. She became a secret me who awoke again when married by crossing adultery’s threshold. Initially I was wracked with guilt but with time, guilt waned. I flitted to elicit pleasures with wings of guile. I loved her. She was me, not all but an intricate part, the hidden me. Only I knew her foibles, hidden from all but me.
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 whole. So now 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. It’s with hindsight’s at last accepted truth, without denials. 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, guileful, 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 for me to accept and more so to say but it’s true. I’m guilty.
Even though I selfishly risked the love of those who loved me, 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.
I’m generous to a fault; try not to judge others, offer help instead of criticism, have never stolen, maimed or abused another. I’m devoted to family, even extended, assist them when asked and when not. My list of good deeds is long.
Yet, while I don’t judge myself evil was I morally tested? I did things which could have forced me to do evil, unforgivable evil.
The gun, would I have killed to evade illicit exposure? If illicitly pregnant would I have aborted an unborn child, confessed and destroyed the family loved, concoct an elaborate lie to 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.
Our lives are rides on a one-way street to a stop sign, each with unique bumps, curves and views. Mine proof, blessed or cursed they’re all unfair.
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, a lifelong string of good luck, undeserved but gratefully accepted. Does gambling with the devil make me evil? God makes final judgment. I’ve managed to stay out of God’s mysterious ways. Will retribution come when I die? I don’t know. Perhaps this is it. Perhaps we are recycled. Only God knows. I do know, heaven and hell occur here too.
I’m confessing a life of adultery. You are my confessor. As you read you can judge, guilty of evil or not. My saga begins with my birth, family, schooling, puberty, engagement and marriage to provide my wanton perspective. It ends in old age’s acceptance of my sins. In between, in graphic detail, 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 the story to discover who I am. I write in an indecipherable code for anonymity. My story tells the truth, as lived and now related. The details provide my cloak’s cover. The dairy’s entry time span lapses, omissions, lies are edited as I reveal my tale.
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 and they in turn often fail to recollect what I recall we did together. What really happened?
Our minds distort our life’s experiences as they occur based on what we think is. Our memory banks then delete, twist and re-imagine things as they become our past. I try my best 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, now, back then or tomorrow? I don’t know, a conundrum but I try to tell honestly what happened.
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 as I relate play by play sexual interactions. It’s necessary to recall the raw experiences in graphic slow motion to understand how I changed and then changed again.
I don’t confess to an adulterer’s kiss. I’m confessing it all. It’s the details which make the mind movie, no? It wasn’t a kiss and sex. It was the flirts, kisses, hugs, caresses, fondles, licks, grasps, prophylactics, penetrations, spasms, crescendos, withdrawals of adulterous sex. The events which changed me were in the details.
Einstein’s relativity says space and time are interchangeable. The past is now as is the future. There’s just the present, where you’re at now is only a place in space with past and future other places in space, forever fixed. Are our lives preset at birth? Is each moment a picture frame which flickers through space and gives the illusion of time’s movement? In old age, looking back, my life appears to be a space/time movie from captioned opening credits to “The End”. Am I a predetermined reel of images flickered through God’s projector? It could be so.
They say only 2 things are unavoidable, death and taxes. I add another, change. While it may be glacial or volcanic, it’s constant. Even our remembered past changes, a rear-view mirage of selective memory. What’s remembered is skewed in the fractured light of recollection. We see hues as remembered and adjust others to fit what’s we think works best. Perhaps we simply edit our space/time movie. I don’t know.
I write of a life lived in a time gone, even though not so 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 now back 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 then roofs were adorned with aluminum antennas connected by wire to a black and white vacuum tube TV which required a repairman now and then. Kids watched Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club. At night adults watched Lucy and Rickie sleep in separate beds, their kissing taboo. Father Knew Best, Ed Sullivan frowned at guests and Milton Berle bored the rest.
A black rotary phone sat on its command table, its loud ring startled the house.
Kodak’s bulb flashed in our face after which for a moment, we couldn’t see and the picture taken took a week to develop.
Music played on a revolving disk, a needle in its vinyl grove. A juke box glowed pastel colors in bars, restaurants and soda shops, their music ready to fill the room at 3 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 10 to 3, 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 mail 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 tea parties with dolls present. Both tried a hula-hoop now and then. The family played checkers, Monopoly and cards. There were no dungeons and dragons, Barbie dolls or video games.
Children all got measles. Polio’s scourge haunted summer. Moms marched for Easter Seal dimes. Doctors advertised cigarettes. You’d walk a mile for a Camel.
On every busy street corner “service” stations sold gas for 33 cents a gallon or less and had quarter cigarette and dime coke machines plus a glass enclosed phone booth.
They gave Green or Blue-Chip stamps plus free maps as boot. The mechanic, interrupted by the ding of the bell hose ding, rushed to be of service. At your car he pumped the gas, cleaned the windows, checked its oil, water and tires air. When you left, he returned to fixing a car on a hydraulic hoist.
Gay meant cheerful, pot was for cooking, porn wasn’t a 4-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 a wife who stayed home with kids, her work never done. A man’s position was as a husband, the family provider who left home in the morn for work, his job a life sentence. Dinner was a family affair cooked by mom. Dad sat and ruled at the table head. The day’s events were discussed but mention of sex was proscribed.
It was a different world though not so 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? Mine did.
Author Notes: Prologue to longer tale know as Balinese Puppet Shadows