Warning…You’re Getting Old


For the first 21 years of life, growing old is marked by wonderful and rewarding milestones and rights of passage.

-Learning to walk

-Starting school

-Losing your baby teeth

-Getting driver’s license

-Graduating high school

-Being eligible to vote

-Being legal age to drink

But as the years creep on by…life’s milestones regress in level of desirability.

-Having to be self-sufficient

-Having a mortgage

-Paying taxes

-Losing your adult teeth


Yep…getting old definitely sucks.

In the last week, I have had three events that have made me stop and kick the roses. These events…not in and of themselves true milestones, but collectively…have made me feel every bit my 36 years…and perhaps even an added 5 to 30 years heaped on top of that.

Last weekend, my cousin Jeannie and her husband, Jason, were kind enough to bring me the dining room set that belonged to my grandmother, Joan. Jeannie had inherited the set but soon realized her growing family needed something else. So, she called me and offered to bring the set down from Tupelo to my home in Jackson.

I was thrilled to get the table and chairs…though not really my style, I needed a table that sat more than four people sharing a bag of chips or two people actually eating off of plates.

My grandmother’s set came with a leafed table and six chairs. It is the table and chairs that the adults of our family would gather around every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the table and chair set I looked longingly at as I sat with my cousins at the kitchen counter or while balancing my plate on my knees as I sat on the fireplace hearth during these holiday feasts.

It was always a special right of passage when a grandchild graduated to the big folks’ table. I remember my first time sitting there…looking across the gravy boat and mashed potatoes at my Uncle Walt and Aunt Roxanne (themselves so young that they hadn’t been granted the privilege of actual chairs…they shared the piano bench).

So even though this set (circa 1970-something) is styled in a sort of French Provincial-meets-The Brady Bunch fashion…my heart warmed when I realized I would be the next family member to serve from this piece of nostalgia.

However, when Jeannie and Jason pulled up to my house…I had to rethink the warming of the cockles of my heart when Jeannie asked me this simple little question.

“Where do you want the hutch?”

I had no idea the hutch…also called a China cabinet…was part of the deal. I didn’t want it. I couldn’t take it. A China cabinet? In my house? What would I showcase…my dinnerware bought at the grocery store? I wasn’t June Cleaver. I wasn’t my grandmother. I wasn’t…an adult.

I panicked and called my mom…who quickly reminded me that I needed to be gracious, as Jeannie and Jason had taken their Saturday to bring me free furniture.

So I smiled tightly and cleared a spot for the cabinet.

As soon as Jason and I set the hutch down in the dining room…I felt it…I actually felt the youth drain from my being. I might be 36…but I didn’t feel a day under 52. I felt like an adult…and I didn’t like it.

An adult…not to be confused with feeling grown-up. There’s a distinct difference in the two.

Feeling grown up is feeling like you are capable of being on your own…of taking care of yourself.

The first time I felt grown-up was when I was 16 years old. I was running errands around Biloxi for my folks, driving the family car…a 1969 VW van. It was a hot day and I was thirsty. I realized I had some change in my purse so I pulled into a gas station, got out, and bought a Sprite. I remember sitting in the van quenching my thirst with that refreshing burst of lemon-lime and thinking…for the first time in my life…that I was grown-up. I didn’t have to ask to stop or ask for money. I made a decision and took action. It was very liberating…as well as being fizzy and delicious.

But feeling like you’re an adult is not a delicious revelation…it’s a weighty burden that can’t be forgotten by driving back home and handing the van keys back over to Dad.

It’s the realization that you have to take care of yourself because no one else is going to. It’s the knowledge that there are things in life that you have to deal with and make work because you don’t have another choice.

It’s working an unwanted China cabinet into your decor because your cousin was nice enough to bring it to you…and because you can’t keep using a folding table from Fred’s as a sideboard.

I took the cabinet and did my best to pull the room together. It actually looks nice…it looks like it belongs in the 1977 Family Circle Thanksgiving dinner photo spread…but it looks nice.

However…just as I was getting used to coming home to the set of “Father Knows Best” every day…another right of passage hit me…emergency home repairs.

As I was getting ready to go to the movies with my friend Peggy on Saturday, I noticed a puddle of water on the floor in my kitchen by the sink. Thinking I had been a little messy when I washed the dishes from lunch, I put down a towel to sop up the water.

One movie, two dish towels, a bath towel, and beach towel later…I realized it was more than a spill. Something was wrong.

I searched high and low for the source of the water…which was now becoming the new Old Faithful. Finally I located the problem. My air-conditioning unit was leaking…leaking through the wall into the kitchen…leaking through another wall into the hall closet…and pooling in an inch-deep well in the crawl space under the a.c. unit.

Like my acceptance of the unwanted China cabinet…I panicked for only a minute at the unwanted water. Then I got a bucket, put it under the leak, and called Dad for advice.

Dad said he would take a look at the problem when he came up next weekend with Mom and Coop en route to Memphis for an engagement party for my brother, Ben, and his fiancee, Hattie. However, he also said I shouldn’t wait for his visit…I should have a professional come out and fix the leak, as the water could cause electrical and other problems.

I hated to spend the money…but, again, I am an adult…it wasn’t about what I wanted…it was about what I had to do. So I hung up with Dad and called the repair folks.

Three hours and $211 later…the well is dry and Old Faithful has shut down.

But my series of milestones had one more marker for me this weekend.

Today…while eating a grilled cheese sandwich…I bit down into the whole grain bread and felt something wrong…very wrong.

The whole side of a back left molar came right off.

This was my breaking point, folks.

Ugly furniture and flooding of my home I can handle.

Becoming an old hag with missing teeth is where I draw the line.

I don’t want to get old. I DON’T WANT TO GET FRIGGIN’ OLD!

But I guess that point is as moot as wearing dentures without Polygrip.

Like I did with the furniture and the leak…trying my best to avoid being an adult and dealing with the problem myself…my first course action was to call my folks.

After shedding some tears and going on about loosing my tooth…my dad made me promise to go buy myself some Red Cross Toothache Medication so that I could get through the night.

Then he cracked some corny joke about how life was always a series of events to overcome and deal with.

My mood lightened and I joked back.

“Dad, you think if I put this broken tooth under my pillow tonight the Tooth Fairy will give me some money to the cover the cost of my dental bill?”

Without hesitation, my dad answered…”Not until next weekend.”

And just like that, I was my dad’s kid again…and all was right with the world for a few minutes.

Thanks, Dad and Mom, for giving me what I needed to become an adult…and thanks for continuing to give what I need to remain a kid.

I guess the day I actually deal with a major crisis without running to the phone to call Ma and Pa Powers for advice will be my official adulthood marker.


I hope they don’t mind…but for now, at least, they are staying at the top of my speed dial.


25 Responses to “Warning…You’re Getting Old”

  1. nolagirl Says:

    OK, the hag with missing teeth comment was freakin funny. I got a *nice* visual there. (sorry about your tooth btw – ouch! My brother is a dentist – does that help?)

    And don’t you just love when Dads say stuff like that. Although I don’t do it anymore, I could still get my dad to pretty much give me anything within his power if I just asked. We *are* the only girls, you know, so we reserve that right. πŸ˜‰

    Oh, and my dad’s corny line was always, “That’s life moving out West.” Man that used to piss me off!

  2. TALK! Says:

    I think I’d really like your Dad…I love his line. πŸ˜‰

    I just got back from the dentist…and after hearing how much the cost of repairing the tooth will be…I now need a proctologist.

  3. PeggyisAmused Says:

    Sweet post, Shell. Loved the line about being dad’s little girl again.

    You set a good example and watching you take care of business gives me hope that I can be as strong as you some day.

  4. nolagirl Says:

    Ouch! That bad huh? To throw in another annoying saying, “When it rains it pours!” (damnit!)

  5. TALK! Says:

    Peg…thanks. I feel like I’m falling apart (starting with my teeth) but I guess I am handling it okay. πŸ˜‰


    And Nola…you know it.

    Final cost for fixing my tooth is around $700. GACK!

  6. suzi-q Says:

    Funny, very funny, Shell the delight you gave about all the disasters leads me to have confidence not only in you, but in myself. I am sooooooo proud of you but,honey,a protologist is terribly expensive too, do you think it necessary:) !! (tongue in cheek:) anyway watch for the tooth fairy in a couple of days:)

  7. TALK! Says:

    Suzi-Q…I love you. πŸ˜‰


    Clean sheets and a big hug are ready for when ol’ T.F. arrives at my door.

    Seriously, though…I’m gonna be okay.

    Just ask NOLAgirl…things could be a LOT worse.

  8. Holeigh Says:

    Thanks for scaring the 19 year old, Shell. πŸ˜›

    I don’t wanna grow up either…even college seems like too much of an undertaking at times. Who else wants to go back to high school with me?

  9. TALK! Says:

    Holeigh…I didn’t mean to scare you, young one…brushes hair from Holeigh’s forehead and kisses her gently on the top of head.

    As much as growing up is challenging and…ahem…eventful…I would still rather be where I’m at now than go back to high school!

    Enjoy college while you’re there.

    I know this seems trite but believe me when I say that…no matter how bad college is…you’ll look back on it with some degree of fondness…even if it’s the fact that you got to sleep late a couple of days a week.

    Make the most of your days in school…balance it with studies AND tons of fun. Trust me on this.

    I couldn’t wait to finish college and get out on my own. AND I wouldn’t want to go back to college even today…but I wish I had enjoyed myself a little more while I was there. I wish I had taken time to travel when I didn’t have so many responsibilities to bills and work and stuff in general.

  10. nolagirl Says:

    I long for the college days sometimes! Nothing is better than waking up and thinking “You know, I don’t feel like getting up today” and just staying home. Can’t do that in “The Real World.” (well, you Β°can* but you might not be very successful, that is)

  11. Holeigh Says:

    Hehehe, I know, looking back I don’t want to return to high school either. But it all seemed so simple then; I know that its not SO much different now, but the whole living-on-the-other-side-of-the-state thing has gotten to me. (Oh, yeah: I’m going to be transferring to Michigan State University for winter semester! Now I’ll only be a 1/2 hour from home.) I will try and have fun…I know that’ll happen when I get to MSU since I have lots of friends there.

  12. TALK! Says:

    Ha! I went to MSU, too.

    Mississippi State University. πŸ˜‰

    Go DAWGS!

  13. Holeigh Says:

    πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, I’m a fan of U of M, MSU’s rival. I don’t care though so: Go Wolverines!

  14. Shrewspeaks Says:

    Oh Shelley…I am so sorry. I do feel your pain…no really. My parents were down for the 4th and first…there was a lovely cascade coming down from the bathroom into all my kitchen cabinets. Turns out the pipes in the wall behind my toliet cracked. Thankfully, the most beautiful plumber in the world, dropped everything and ran to my aid. Unfortunately, he thanked my parents for calling him urgh. Then my air died…that I have lived with out in the living room since…hey I can hack it.

    But growing up..well it just plain sucks…so this one is for you Shells!

    “I don’t want to grow up,
    I’m a Toys’ R Us kid,
    there’s a million toys at Toys ‘R Us that I can play with! More bikes, more trains, more video games,
    it’s the biggest toy store there is! Gee wiz!!!
    I don’t want to grow, because then if I did,
    I wouldn’t be a Toys ‘R Us kid!”

    Ah commercialization of an 80’s kid!

  15. TALK! Says:

    shrew…I’m having visions of Geoffrey the Giraffe…thank you for thank!

    Cheers to leaky toilets and fine plumbers! πŸ˜‰

  16. Quossum Says:

    This was a good post, Shelley!

    My “transition point” to adulthood was a bit more subtle. I lived an hour away while going to college, but of course THAT wasn’t being grown up.

    Even when I got my first job in a city four hours away from home, and I watched the folks drive away, it didn’t seem real yet.

    The day I felt like a grown-up was the day I was sitting at my desk with my paltry paycheck in front of me, writing out checks for bills. And I thought, “This is what grown-ups do. They work; they come home; they pay bills. And I’m doing it!” My feeling was one of terrific let-down: So this is all there is? Wow, I made it. I’m an independent grown-up now. Whoop-de-do.

    But wait–there was one more point when that realization struck me. It was the time (round-about the same time period of the “bills” epiphany) that I saw a bunch of ants outside, crawling in a crack in between the bricks of the house. These weren’t the fire ants that we’re used to here on the Gulf Coast: these were big friggin’ black wood ants, each almost 1/2″ long. Thinking myself terribly sly, I blasted them with a hose and walked inside, smugly dusting off my hands.

    Later that evening, I went into my bathroom. It was like a scene from a horror movie: Those big black ants *covered* the floor of my bathroom, having been washed inside by my oh-so-clever hosing down. They writhed all over the floor, like a black, moving carpet.

    For a few minutes I stared in horror–though I’m not freaky about bugs, this was something to quail the stoutest of hearts. This was a moment of adult realization, too, as I thought, I have to deal with this. This is my house and these are my ants. Huh. So this is what grown-ups do.

    So I dealt with it, and it was with some degree of satisfaction, I tell you what.

    A bit anti-climatic, this being a grown-up. Not all it’s cut out to be. If only I could get this across to my 8th graders. Look, being a grown-up doesn’t mean no one telling you what to do and setting your own curfew. It means paying bills and dealing with ant carpets in your bathroom.

    That’s reality, folks!


  17. NOLAgirl Says:

    Ewwww – your ant story is NAS-ty Q!

    I had a similar (but a lot less “freaky”) experience the first time I had a roach in my own place. I couldn’t run and get my dad. It was me and the roach, and I HAD to take care of it. B/c the only thing worse than killing and disposing of a roach is knowing there is one somewhere in your house/apt. So after several deep, deep breaths and a little pep talk to myself, I did it. I think I worked up a sweat I was so hyped up. I did not want to be a “grown up” that night!

  18. TALK! Says:

    Q, you and I so much alike it’s scary. I know what you mean with the “This is what it’s all about?” revelation.

    Great comment…thanks! πŸ˜‰

    And, NOLAgirl…I got a roach story to end all roach stories…

    Being a homeowner has been an enlightening experience for me, to say the least.

    In fighting the battle of the bugs, I learned (in the worst possible way) that Bengal Roach Spray truly “flushes and kills.” After seeing more than my fair share of roaches around the house, I bought some Bengal and decided to send those roaches a message!

    Well, suffice it to say that the tables were turned when I emptied half a can of Bengal into the cracks around the fireplace and swarms (meaning about 200 or so) of the winged menaces came from behind the wall and lighted throughout my living room. In hysterics, I (as is my M.O.) called my pop, who, despite being 160 miles away, calmed me down. Then I called a friend, who promptly came to the house, armed with more bug spray, a flyswatter and a resolve to rid my place of the bugs. Now that’s a true friend!

  19. suzi-q Says:

    You want to hear pitiful,I,as a mom of three at the time,homeowner and stay-at-home mom at the time, caught a lizard in a cabinet door and was so freaked out and had to call my dad to come rescue me (poor lizard stuck in cabinet door striving for freedom)Well my precious gallant father came over, rescued the lizard and me and never told my husband that he bailed me out. So dad’s are our wonderful source to help indeed:)
    Thanks Dad as I know you are smiling down at me and mine from your heavenly viewpoint:)

  20. NOLAgirl Says:

    Oh Shelley that is just horrifying. I mean, just HORRIFYING. I *hate* roaches. I would much rather spiders. (you should see Dwain around a spider – he gets all girly in a nanosecond and about jumps in my lap. But I have to cut him a little slack b/c he almost lost a foot due to a severe infection from a spider bite when he was a teenager – OUCH!)

  21. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Funny that this was the first post I read after a 3 day weekend at the ‘rents. Last year my parents moved 2+ hours away which, for me, is a big thing. (I drive down once a month just so my Mom can tell me to quit fidgeting. πŸ˜‰

    I feel you Shelley. Really, I do. I turned 34 last week and have been in a funk ever since. I am only pretending to be an adult. From the outside, I look like one. I have a good job, pay my bills on time, am a good mommy to my dogs…
    But inside I am a child. A child that is scared a lot of times, a child that finds more interest in cartoons than the news, a child that can eat 3 bowls of cereal for dinner, a child that never, ever wants to grow old (except for that pesky alternative).

    This past weekend I was actually talking to my Dad about possibly buying a house in the next year or so. Yeah, I’m thinking I’m not ready after reading all this reading. The tiniest spider 10ft away can cause me to quake. And if my A/C went out I’d freak out just trying to make a decision on who to call. I can’t do it by myself.

    So, thanks for helpin’ a sista out. I’m just gonna hunker down in my apt. and keep my good relationship w/the maintenance fella. He’s always on hand for bug “situations”.

    P.S. I almost bought a hutch at an antique store this weekend.

  22. suzi-q Says:

    Hey Shell, Nolagirl and BbTb should read “Be Nice to Spiders” huh:) Ask Shell what she kept outside her front door for several weeks undisturbed until the entire family (extended) showed up to celebrate Christmas. Got a bit crowded and busy at the front door, right Shell!!!!!

  23. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Suzi- I have an extreme irrational fear of spiders…so much so, that even writing/reading the word makes my heart beat faster. I have a can of repellant at home with a pic of one on it and until I taped a piece of paper over it, I would shake when I picked it up. So, I don’t think I could read a book about them. (Totally ooging out right now….heebie jeebies..ick!)

  24. TALK! Says:

    BBTB…I understand your fear…that’s how I am about roaches.

    The book Suzi-Q is talking about is one that I had read to me over and over again when I was a child.

    It is such a sweet story that I literally canNOT kill a spider. I will gently pick them up (on a sheet of paper or something) and set them outside…or…I’ll let them roam around my house.

    As a matter of fact, the spider Suzi-Q mentions above is a huge banana spider that made the most beautiful web outside my front door last fall. She stayed there through Christmas. I had folks over for a party and some were scared of it, some wanted to knock it down, and some, like me, marveled at how beautiful it was.

    I let it stay there until it was ready to pack its bags and leave…it sure kept the bugs away from my door!

    I hope that doesn’t mean you won’t ever come to visit me! πŸ˜‰

    P.S. Don’t let these stories scare you away from buying a house. I bought mine when I was 32 and, despite problems here or there, haven’t regretted it! You just ask friends to refer you to reputable repair people…keep their numbers handy…and you can deal with anything! (Plus you can always call me for advice…HA!)

  25. bamaborntxbred Says:

    One of the great contradictions that make up my personality is that, though I loathe roaches, fear spiders and freak around jumpy bugs (crickets, grasshoppers, etc.), I cannot kill a living thing. I will shake and quake and hyperventilate, but I will scoop the damned thing up with anything handy and set it free outside. (Usually someone else has to take care of the spiders…with me in the background screaming, “Don’t kill it!!”).

    I even save earthworm lives if I’m out walking my dogs and I see one flopping around on the sidewalk. I’m such a wormanatarian.

    I could visit you if there was another way to enter and exit your house. Seriously.

    We’ll see about the house….I’m a fraidy cat.

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