Sunday, March 11, 2012

Talking to Old Soldiers

Why hello, say can I buy you another glass of beer
Well thanks a lot that's kind of you, it's nice to know you care
These days there's so much going on
No one seems to want to know
I may be just an old soldier to some
But I know how it feels to grow old
-Talking to Old Soldiers- Elton John/Bernie Taupin
            Tumbleweed Connection

We sat in my Aunt's kitchen again.  My puppy sleeping silently under the table.  Darkness had shaded the windows and all the lights were on. 

“Your hands are a mess.” She said glancing at my naturally stubbly fingers and ragged but clean nails. You look at a picture of my Polish great grandfather’s hands and my hands, and they are identical.  Genes are funny things. At least I didn’t inherit his handlebar moustache.

“Don’t you get manicures?”

I have never had one in my life. I was born to have cuticles. Nail polish chips the minute I put it on.  Fake nails? I wash my hands way too much and I am afraid of fungal infections. I am clearly not the type.

A pedicure? Are you kidding? I have to walk, run to my car, plant bushes, fill in puppy holes, stand on tip-toes to reach for things since I am not that tall, kick dirty teenage clothes into a pile to finally pick up, etc.  I don’t like people messing with my feet.

“I have been gardening.” I answered.

“You need to take care of yourself.  When I was your age I went to the Beauty Parlor once a week.”

“To be shellacked?”  My inner smart ass never fails.  I forget sometimes who I am talking too.

She broke into a smile. “Your grandmother insisted.”  “When I was working, I always looked presentable.  The hands were important.  Posture too.”

“I suppose bikini waxes were in too.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”  Apparently that was not part of the female grooming ritual it seems to be today. Or is it?  I have no idea. I plead ignorant.

“And you curse too much. When I was at high level meetings at work, the men never stooped that low in my presence.” 

Now that she’s got me on. Swear words, sexual innuendos and sarcasm constitute my second, third and fourth languages. I should go back to Latin.

There is nothing like an old soldier talking to inferiors. I felt lower than a snake’s belly. I looked at her gnarled arthritic hands but perfect pink nail polish.  Her perfectly coiffed hair. Slacks, no jeans. Lipstick.  Slippers worn in the house, no bare feet and earrings that matched not only her pendant but rings as well.

I couldn’t look this put together if I tried.

Her hair is a family tradition. I noticed this at my Dad’s funeral.  There isn’t a Polish female relative among them who has gray hair.  My Aunt at age 93 still dyes her hair blond.  Her younger cousins now in their 70’s all had brown hair. Clairol must have been trucked into the old neighborhood.

Deep down I knew she was right. With recent events in my life, I have neglected some of the finer things in life.  The clothes, the hair, the jewelry, etc.  My guess was that no one was really looking.

I guessed wrong.

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