-as published in Living Out East and On the Bay http://www.livingouteast.com
Mimi Fingers’ mother is visiting again. I know this because music appreciation keeps coming up as a topic of conversation among our neighbors. Just this morning I overheard part of a conversation at our front door between Brown Eyes, my wife, and 3 other ladies of the neighborhood.
“This has got to stop. I need my beauty rest”, Brenda Fitzapiti was saying as I shuffled by to get another cup of tea with lots of milk. I am way too tactful to say to Brenda “How right you are!” Besides, Brown Eyes would kill me.
The ladies stopped talking as I passed and then resumed again once I was out of hearing range. Three minutes later on my return trip they stopped talking again but not before I overheard “I wish I played anything as well as she plays that saxophone.”
That’s when I knew exactly who they were talking about: Mimi Fingers’ periodic “elderly” visitor, her mother Elizabeth Brown. Mrs. Brown is 84, old enough to be my mother. She drives her own car to the store, still likes to show a bit of ankle or cleavage in the right company if you get my drift, writes haiku, takes weekly bridge and hula lessons, is a wonderful baker (I especially love her holiday cookies), and swims almost every day. Mrs. Brown has been known to say to all of us at parties “I like you people individually but as a group you’re really boring. Can’t you talk about something other than food and travel plans and lawn mowing services?”
What really brings out the music appreciation crew, though, is Mrs. Brown’s amazing skill with the saxophone. Concerts for the neighborhood, beside the Fingers’ pool, inside their cage. At 11 pm, for 30 minutes. Six nights a week (no sax on Sundays). Lots of Benny Goodman with a few hot licks thrown in to see if we’re all paying attention.
When the ladies finally left our front door and Brown Eyes was in the kitchen I pretended to need more tea. She saw through that immediately and said “You are about to make one of those really acute observations that always takes me by surprise, aren’t you? OK. Lay it on me.”
How she always knows this in advance I do not know. Maybe it’s the position of the moon. I said, “I’ve been thinking about Elderly a lot lately and have come to the conclusion it has little to do with chronological age. What it has mostly to do with is that moment in our lives when we realize we can’t be fully self managing anymore and have to ask our children or someone to share responsibility for us. Until then we’re not Elderly. We’re just getting older.”
Sometimes Brown Eyes wishes I wouldn’t think so much. This wasn’t one of those times, however.
“You’ve done it again”, she said, “We know old people in their 60s and young people in their 80s. All the hype about 50 being the new 30 is bunk. Chronological age isn’t the major determiner any more, is it? Is this why you sit in a patio chair six nights a week listening to Elizabeth Brown play the sax when you should be asleep like a sane person? Darn. Now I’m going to have to think about this for a while.”
It’s true. Mrs. Brown is inspiring and a great teacher of what is possible. I enjoy her visits to the Fingers. She has transformed my definition of Elderly and with that added to my treasure chest of possibilities as I age. It’s a great life. Besides, where else can you get a free live sax concert without leaving the comforts of home? I love music appreciation.
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Talk to you soon, George