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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

In The End, It's All About Humor

On Saturday, my husband and I stopped in to a local gallery where an accomplished painter and an acquaintance was having a two-person show. Judith is an upbeat, interesting, warm woman in her late 60s. Her works on paper and textiles were inspired at a young age by a family that encouraged creativity and by the cycle of the seasons and living things. Their home was filled with passion for horticulture, fine fabrics, baking, and cooking. There was always something to learn and explore. These early passions are reflected in her work.

As it happens, Judith's husband was, up until six months ago, my husband's physician. His departure from his practice was sudden. Like all of his patients, my husband was caught by surprise and none too happy. But, hey, there are plenty of other doctors out there who can discuss my husband's prostate.

When we arrived at the gallery, the ex-M.D. was not on the premises. But, his 99-year-old mother was. And that's the point of all of this. This woman could not have been ninety-nine. No way! She was all dolled up in a high-end, beige pant suit with a tasteful gold necklace that fell just so above the first button of her jacket. Her hair, dyed a natural light brown, looked as if she'd sported the same color since the time she was a toddler. She wore red lipstick--not too red--and a touch of makeup. If I hadn't noticed the walker on which she leaned, I would have guessed she was at least twenty years younger.

But it wasn't her physical beauty that took my breath away: it was her sense of humor. My husband, ever the von vivant, told her how beautiful she was. She took the compliment in stride -- I wasn't sure she'd heard him--and then, much to our amusement and joy, said, "What are you doing after the opening?"

We were taken aback. Here was this ninety-nine-year-old gem of a woman flirting with my husband. Then, without skipping a beat, she looked at me and said, "Oh, but your wife is right here with you."

For the first time in years, my witty, quick-on-his feet husband stood there like one of those mummies we'd seen in a Mexican museum. It took him a few beats before replying, "Well, then we can meet some other time."

She winked, turned, and began pushing herself with the aid of her walker out the front door.

I was awed by this spunky, vibrant woman who took her age in stride. Just five minutes later when I left the gallery and headed for the car, I saw her and two younger friends walking into a woman's clothing shop across the street. She wasn't going home; she was on an afternoon outing with friends.

I have a dear friend who, at 75, doesn't want to live more than another ten years. She doesn't want to be old; she's ready to make her exit stage left. Her friends, she says, should throw one hell of a party when she bites the dust and enjoy a good one on her.

I respect her choice (if she has one) but do not share it. I'd like to make it to a 100 with most of my faculties in tact. But what I realize now is that a sense of humor can go a long way in helping us deal with the jabs and insults of aging.

Believe me, I'm not one of those pie-in-the-sky optimists who always sees the up side of life. I can complain just like the next person. Complain about my body, my work, my marriage, my son. You name it, and I can wax negative.

But when I can find black humor in death, deep, guttural laughter in losing my balance and tripping over anything in my path, joy in the mere fact that I'm alive and kicking--well, I say bring on the CBD for whatever ails me, a good margarita, dear friends and let's laugh our asses off at the older, wiser women we've become.


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