Old News: Staying Sane Amid the Vortex of Time

Remember when you were a child and you went to funerals and weddings and there were all those people in their 60s who seemed ancient beyond comprehension? Now you are the one being observed by children at funerals and weddings as they chatter in the corner, oblivious as to whether you can hear them or not, pointing towards you and saying, "Look at the weird clothes that old woman is wearing." You look behind you to see who they are talking about and then realize with horror that they are talking about you. Surely not! How can it be?

There are unmistakable signs that you are getting older, no matter how hard you try to deny it. You forget what you did five minutes ago yet remember with perfect clarity a four-leaf clover you gave to your mother when you were 4 years old. That red blur you see a few feet in front of you might be a cardinal ready to take flight, a fire hydrant, or a stop sign, but no—when you get a bit closer you see that it is a red geranium gracing the front of the Crown Plaza Hotel. If you had had your glasses on you would have known this, but where they are is a mystery. Your glasses are not the only thing you have lost. The milk you bought last night has disappeared, as well as your scissors and garbage bags, and clearly your mind is lost somewhere between dimensions of time and space.

Calling your 90-year-old mother—whose memory seems far better than your own—you tell her, "Mother, there's a vortex in my house that's sucking all my stuff into it."

"That's ridiculous," she replies curtly and hangs up.

You don't know whether to be relieved or chagrined when you later find the scissors in the freezer, along with your shampoo (now frozen) and garbage bags. You find your milk in the bathtub, alongside your 30-pound cat, Boots, who is lapping up the spilled contents. After lifting the enormous cat out of the tub, not without difficulty, and mopping up the milk, you run hot water and sink into it, as if to obliterate yourself. Ah, you say to yourself, ah.

Getting out of the tub, you try to decide what to wear. You try on 15 or so outfits: too old, you say to yourself, wearing an ankle-length shirtwaist; too young, you think, modeling a red pleated skirt in the mirror; too nothing, you say, trying on a narrow skirt that comes just below your knees. Finally, you settle on a pair of ragged jeans and a tie-dyed shirt you've saved from the '70s, when you went barefoot to class and wore nothing but ragged jeans and tie-dyed shirts.

Tying a bandanna around your graying hair, you go to get your dog, Mallory, and discover with horror that even Mallory has disappeared. Did you forget to bring her home from the dog park? Did someone steal her as you picked flowers in front of the Crown Plaza, or did she simply run away? You look under the bed, inside the clothes hamper, behind the shower curtain.

"Mallory, Mallory," you call, with no response. You look behind the book shelves, under tables, on top of the kitchen counter. Finally, with fear and trepidation, you open the refrigerator door, whispering Mallory, are you in there? Mercifully, she is not, and then you think: The vortex! The vortex has sucked your beloved companion into it. Quelles horreur! Sinking to your knees, you weep and shake your fist at God, screaming: "How could you? How could you?"

Suddenly, from the vantage point of your knees, you spy two large brown eyes looking sidelong at you from a basket of dirty clothes as if to say, "What's the matter now?" She then leaps into your arms to be taken to the downtown dog park.

"Mallory, Mallory," you cry, squeezing her so hard she squeals. Then, "I'm going to kill you Mallory."

On your way to the dog park you pass a large bus with a hundred or so 14-year-old girls who shriek when they see Mallory in all her adorableness. Their perfect young skin and radiant almond eyes brimming with hope are just reminders that you are rounding the last bend of your life. They ask if they might pet Mallory, who preens and struts as though she were some sort of beauty queen, eventually forcing you to drag her away.

Once at the park, Mallory frolics with a wire-hired fox terrier wearing some sort of pink jump suit, and the two four-legged princesses weave in and out of each other in the dappled light under the maple tree. Becoming a little less listless, you ponder the good fortune of dogs. They don't have to work. They don't know how old they are. They don't know what they look like. They give unconditional love.

You raise your face to the healing sun and doze off, until a peal of thunder causes Mallory to bound into your arms, frightened. Needing you. You laugh, Mallory barks, and all is well as the rain cleanses and heals all who abide upon the planet Earth.