Saturday, June 24, 2006

lapses (& Bingo)

Isn't it odd? The longer there is a silence, the harder it is to fill. Like sitting beside a stranger in a small room. If you don't make conversation quickly, it becomes almost impossible to do so the more that time goes by.

I keep waiting for something profound to happen in my life that I could write about. Or perhaps come across some interesting news item. A funny story to tell... But days pass and the silence is harder to drown out.

What to say? I played Bingo today at the seniors' centre. Usually my elderly friend has another friend who takes her down to Bingo each Saturday. Today her regular Bingo partner couldn't make it and called to see if I could fill in.

She was waiting when I arrived, her teeth on her lap. Without them she looks 50 years older and I was worried she was having a bad day. But she insisted she was up for it. A few minutes later, teeth in and $0.50 in hand, she was ready to go.

I found her two lucky cards - one with the 8, the other with the 13 in the top left corner. (For myself I chose two with 11 in that spot - figured I would either double my luck, or un-luck that way.) My friend seldom wins, but faith in her cards is unshaken.

Perhaps it was these cards (though I'd like to think I brought her luck today) - she won a game. I called out Bingo! for her since today she could barely raise her voice above a whisper. I don't think I've ever won a game of Bingo in my life, so it was nice to get to shout it out.

Afterward we had tea, crackers and cubes of cheddar cheese. I saw her looking at the snack dispenser nearby and asked her if she wanted anything. We both agreed that Mars bars are much too sweet. She likes Oh Henry!, but there weren't any. I suggested M&Ms, since they are easily shared. "No," she said. "I don't want to put on weight" - coming from a woman practically paralyzed with Parkinson's who is in her 93rd year, the idea that she still worries about her weight makes me laugh with pleasure. How tightly we hold on to our ideals of self, despite everything. That she is still concerned about gaining weight tells me she has not given up all hope yet, no matter what she may say some days.

I'm sure there are feminists who would be appalled to hear that an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman is still concerned about such idealized vanities as a slim form. But I love that she still thinks about her figure - though masked under plastic underpants and ill-fitting dresses. I love that she is trying to grow out her hair, so white and fine it is a like a thin gauze on her pink scalp.

I wonder what things I will still be worrying about if I should be so lucky, or un-lucky, to live to 92.