Saturday, October 24, 2009

Never too late? Sez who?

Women’s magazines are filled with articles whose theme is that it’s never too late—to develop a new hobby, become physically fit, revitalize our skin, take up a new religion, or make new friends. But there are some things to which I can rightfully say “Absolutely too late!”

Among items on my too-late list are going to graduate school, entering a marathon, and having a nose job. Now I know I could probably take a stab at going back to school, one course at a time, or practicing five days a week with a trainer. The truth is that I don’t want to. Not now, not for the foreseeable future, and probably not ever.

As for the nose job, I just don’t have the guts to go under any knife. But I really do believe that if I can’t accept my face at this age, there’s no hope for me. I do accept my face—most of the time. But recently, I saw a candid photo of myself in profile… Do noses really grow longer while the rest of us shrinks? But it’s too late, and if I’m being honest, I had no desire to go through that surgery 20 or 30 years ago either.

My husband recently finished a two-year stint with metal braces—rubber bands and all. Now that they’re off, he has a purple retainer to wear day and night. Although I didn’t think he needed to do this, I respect his desire to fix something that has, apparently, always bothered him. I give him credit for putting up with the sore gums, the inability to eat taffy apples, and the need to share the orthodontist’s waiting room with teenagers. He looks good, but most important, he feels good about his smile.

I couldn’t have put up with all that suffering for such an extended period. But those who know me probably remember that, several years ago, I had massive dental work, spanning a couple of years and including seven implants, a sinus lift, a bone graft, three root canals, and various other procedures, much of it under general anesthetic, and all of it followed by days of pain. I’m glad I did it, but when I think about going through that now, it seems impossible. What’s changed? Is this the same inflexibility I used to find objectionable in the older generation? If it’s my turn to take on that can’t and won’t attitude, I hope that somehow, somewhere, they forgive me for my scorn back then.

If a new hobby, friend, or low-impact fitness program comes along, I’ll go for it. Just don’t ask me to do anything painful, complicated, or risky. You’re too late.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The blue screen of death and the will to keep working

A couple of weeks ago, an ominous blue screen popped up on my work laptop. I was too clueless to panic, so I calmly walked the machine down to our IT department and begged for assistance. (I was prepared to fight off the admonition, “You’re supposed to e-mail the Help Desk” with the logical “How can I e-mail you if my PC’s not working?”) But I was greeted only with “You have the blue screen of death!” I didn’t much care for that comment, and I finally did start to feel something resembling panic.

Fortunately, IT worked its magic, and I was back in business. But several days later, I was answering e-mails when all applications froze. And stayed frozen. I couldn’t restart and I couldn’t shut down. Again, I marched down to IT. This time I was told to leave the laptop there for testing and given a desktop loaner. The loaner was fine if I wanted to start new documents or play Solitaire. But all my work was on my laptop!

A day later, still toiling on the loaner, I got a phone call from the IT tech. Her message was short and not so sweet: “Can you come down here?” I suddenly felt like I had taken a battery of medical tests and the doctor’s office called to say “The doctor would like to talk with you…privately… in her office.” You know it’s bad news.

The diagnosis? My laptop had a virus and malware that had irreparably messed it up. The action plan? IT would reinstall my entire system. Thankfully, our servers back up everything all the time, so my documents would be restored, and the standard Microsoft products would be there too. But I would have to reinstall all of my software that wasn’t company standard, like four Adobe products—and their upgrades. And reinstall I did, which took me hours and was not without glitches.

I soon discovered what else this procedure had cost me. All of my preferences, my Outlook format selections, and my Favorites for web-surfing needed to be set up again. I spent most of the next two days resetting or frantically sending messages to the Help Desk to restore files that hadn’t transferred over.

After exasperating circumstances like these, I always ask myself if full retirement wouldn’t be a better option than my part-time compromise. But what would I whine and worry about during those extra days at home? My aching knees or inability to open a vitamin bottle? Or, even worse, a meltdown on my home computer and no IT help anywhere in sight? At only three days a week (and never on Monday), work is good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I married a younger man—just not young enough

My husband is younger, but just by a few years. That puts him in the same decade of life as I am. And it means that when we’re watching an old movie, and I ask, “Who’s that actress again?” he usually answers, “It’s What’s-Her-Name.” And there we sit, neither one of us able to conjure up even a first initial as a guide. If we’re lucky, he or I may shout it out a half-hour or so later. But most times, the mystery ends when he looks it up on his iTouch.

Then there are the crossword puzzles. I love doing them, and I’ve even been tackling the New York Times Sunday puzzles lately. But more often than I’d like to admit, a word sits on the tip of my frontal lobes but just won’t work its way down into my hand and out the ballpoint pen I'm clutching. After several tries, I’ll admit defeat and ask my spouse for help. Nine times out of ten, he's sure he knows it but just can’t get it out of the recesses of his brain either.

So it appears that his relative youth is of no use to me in these trivial pursuits. Or is it? Would I feel better if he glibly spouted the actress’s name or leaned over and wrote the elusive puzzle word in the squares? Absolutely not. If he did that, I would probably conclude that my lapses were a sign of encroaching memory loss—the A word. Instead, we can laugh together at the toll age takes on our storehouse of memories. Then I think to myself: If someone younger than I can’t answer these questions quickly either, I must be OK. And we’re in this together.