Wednesday, December 26, 2012



I’m 75. A recent magazine article informs me that our brains—if we take care of them—might hold out until we enter our 90s. After that, decline is inevitable. Keys run off and lose themselves, people go for walks without their pants on, and one’s children might as well be cabbage heads for all the attention we pay them when they visit. However, that same magazine tells me I can hold off embarrassing displays of nakedness to the very last moment by exercising the meaty organ that resides in the bone home between my ears. For example, I can work crossword puzzles and solve math problems—as if fractions weren’t hard enough for me when I was 10. Also I can keep the old brain humming along by dabbling in the art of the Sudoku and—my favorite—by reading several filthy novels a month. Well….

Honestly? The article suggests only that I read. The reading material itself is left to the reader’s imagination. Think of all there is to read! History, biography, science, poetry? Or fiction—whatever fiction catches your fancy—desperate females tied to chairs in detective novels or, if you’re a woman, muscular hunks with shredded shirts in Harlequin romances. Some of my friends study books on gardening in case they want to grow more cabbage heads like the ones that keep showing up in their retirement homes. 

With only a middle school education, my churchgoing Baptist Grandmother, Eve, was a reader. She not only read but she worked crossword puzzles all her life to improve her vocabulary. Born in the final decade of the Victorian 19th Century, she displayed a complete set of Dickens’ novels on a shelf in her living room, but she took a fancy to trashy novels late in life after a stroke partially immobilized her and she could no longer take in work as a seamstress or make lace by hand which she had taught herself to do. After the stroke, she read nothing but dirty novels into the last months of her life, and she lived to be 100. 

An interesting thread connects my grandmother’s youth to today’s young women. In 1897, a year before my grandmother’s birth, Bram Stoker’s Dracula came out. Today’s young girls seem particularly fascinated by the thought of being ravished by a long-fanged vampire. I wonder if my grandmother read Mr. Stoker as a girl and what she thought about his novel? When a particularly devout daughter-in-law displayed a reluctance about my grandmother’s late-blooming taste in novels, Grandma told her, "It’s only life, dear."

I’m also told we seniors can continue to remember that our children aren’t vegetables by eating a healthy diet and by exercising to keep our brains oxygenated. I’m encouraged by every senior publication I read to stay with the vegetarian diet my wife has recently prescribed for us. The diet makes my colon empty itself more times a day than I care to think about, and I fart like a brewery dray horse who’s nosed into the barley. Under the new dietary regime, I’ll become even more of a stinker than I’ve been in the past, but I’ll live longer. The analogy reminds me that Eve’s father, my Great-grandfather Thorp, who taught me to play the card games Big Casino and Seven Up, drove a team of horses for a brewery in his youth. 

Exercise is specially good for the brain. I’m encouraged to climb stairs no matter how much my eyes gaze longingly at the elevator doors a few steps from every stairwell. Parking long distances from mall entrances and walking the corridors of those malls are both encouraged in every book having to do with senior health. Tires me out, thinking of those stairways and long mall corridors. To keep me interested in mall walking, I’ve added a twist to mall walks. I walk when the shops are open and circle through the stores themselves. I like to stride hungrily through the tool section at Sears and stroll through the brightly lit, sparkling Macy’s at one end of my favorite mall. When I feel daring, I whistle my way through Victoria’s Secret. Nothing much remains secret after a turn through that old, Victorian queen’s underwear. Not too long ago, they added a Frederick's of Hollywood to my mall which I plan to visit on a future walk…whistling all the way, of course. 

Who knows? Maybe if I’m lucky and stick to my regime, I’ll live into my 100s and forget all about exercise, find myself in the middle of a mall one day, wondering why I’m in the mall? And not wearing pants!

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