Now that I'm older…
By Ruth Hasselbrook

I am 84 years old. I have been married for 52 years. I have mothered four beautiful children and given away a fifth that I don't talk about. I have seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and I was just informed today via a fax from my youngest daughter that I now have one newborn great-great-grandchild, a boy. His name is Duke.

I was reflecting in the mirror earlier today about what has changed throughout the course of my life, and even more importantly, what has stayed the same. Now that I'm older, according to the saying printed on the bib they give to seniors at Denny's, I'm supposed to be a little wiser too, but to tell the truth, I still feel like a young, naive teenager helping my dad harvest his coca crop before the first snow. On the inside I feel sixteen, but when I peer into the looking glass, my skin betrays my true age. After 84 years of caring for my children and grand children, mending torn clothes, bandaging scraped knees, putting in double shifts at the fishery, and shooting at Injuns, my face is as wrinkled as a buffalo's butt.

If I were to believe the T-shirts they gave us at the Senior Club, I'd tell you that "Seniors Do It With Jay Leno On," but I don't even know what that means. I can't tell you the secret to making a marriage work or finding the right life mate. No one knows; I just got lucky. But I can tell you this with certainty: It is difficult to keep the romantic flame alight in any marriage after 52 years, no matter what drugs you take or attachments you wear. At this age, my husband and I don't make love nearly as often as we used to when we were younger and he was alive. Sometimes I visit the cemetery and rub myself on his headstone, but that's as about as close as we've come in years. My kids don't call or write to me very often anymore, only when one of them is dead or pregnant or drunk or arrested and needs me to bail them out somehow. I have never met three of my grandchildren, and they live right upstairs. I have never gone cow tipping in the middle of the night or murdered a stranger for the thrill. I never found out what happened to that pigeon I flushed down the toilet at my wedding. I forgot where I was going with all this.

When I was a little girl, we used to drink our milk straight from the cow's teat. At least daddy called it his cow's teat. But today we buy our milk in cartons, from stores and street vendors and lactating women looking to make a quick buck. When I was a little girl, we used to quietly churn butter late at night when everyone else was sleeping. At least daddy called it churning butter. But today, we steal our butter from Denny's or find it in the dumpster behind my neighbor's house. When I was a little girl, we used to bathe in the creek as a family whenever my mother wasn't home. Today, we bathe at the YMCA with strangers who take pictures of us and force us to buy them back. We have become spoiled as a society. We no longer know the meaning of a dollar or the value of a dollar. We take and take and don't give back unless we are guaranteed a tax write-off or a sexual thrill. Oh wait, I remember what I was getting at before. As you get older, everyone you know dies, either at God's hand or your own, and people who you once knew fade away into the background of your busy life, and you lose contact with them one by one, until one day your life slows down, and you realize that you're sad, cold, and alone, sitting in a big, empty house with a shawl over your shoulders and typing your lamentations on an old Smith Corona manual typewriter.

Did you ever notice that people who call you on netcams aren't wearing any pants? You think they are, but then you say, "Take off your pants," and they tilt the camera down and surprise! They were naked all along. My grandson Eric in particular likes to pull that one on me.

My dog rusty used to pee on Jahova's Witnesses when they came to the door. After rusty died under my Pinto tire, my husband used to like to invite them in, and let them talk to him about the End Times while he had a porno movie playing behind him. We both thought that was really funny. Some people say they can't tell the difference between butter and margarine, but I can. It says right on the box.

Now that I'm older, I reflect on these things and smile. The thoughts I have shared with you today are meant to help you, make you laugh, make you smile, make you think, and get you a little damp in your briches. If I have made just one child think twice about doing drugs today, then I guess it was all worth it. When God finally takes me to heaven to meet my husband, my dog rusty, that flushed pigeon, that vagrant I killed for whisky money, Courtney Love, and Jesus, I'll put in a good word for you all out there, too. And when you finally go, tell God that Ruth Hasselbrook sent you; I think I get bonus points for referrals.

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