E S S A Y This is my little grandson’s favorite game. The song goes Ring around the rosy, Pocket full of posey, Ashes, ashes, All fall down. But he prefers to start with the word ashes. Then he can get to the all fall down quickly and require those holding his hands – me and whoever else he might round up – to jump down to the floor and laugh. Getting up is no laughing matter for us old folks, but he just pops up and is ready to start again. The first thing he says when we’re finally all up and holding hands again is “ready?”
And off we go.
But to me, ashes ashes feels like my life at the moment. And all fall down is what everyone around me is doing. Gary is on death’s door. His mother is halfway through the door. Francis is better than he wants to admit and just wants someone to fuss over him. Dagmar had a stroke and can’t see. Jim died and Cynthia is not too sure what happened to him. Francis can’t remember who Jim and Cynthia are. Marge fell and wasn’t found for two days and is now in a Beehive home. Bob needs a heart procedure of some sort. Diane died of MS and Jane of a brain tumor, both in the same week. It seems like you either die or you watch everyone fall down around you. I don’t think I like the choice.
But – ha ha – it doesn’t matter if I like it or not. I wasn’t consulted. And why should I be? We are among the luckiest, the richest, the healthiest people who have ever lived on this planet. We have nothing to complain about. If you made it to seventy or so in reasonably good health you did great. You’re ahead of the game; all the rest is gravy.
My high school reunion committee decided to start having reunions every five years instead of every ten. It’s getting too hard to keep track of the dearly departed page. Well, that’s the spirit, I guess. We can sit around in ever smaller circles and tell each other how lucky we are and shed a few tears for the less lucky ones. And look around at the group and wonder whose luck will hold out and make it to the next reunion. But that’s good stuff at this point. I’ll mention another cliché to add to the ones I’ve already used: No one gets out of here alive.
So enjoy what you’ve got. Don’t bemoan what you’ve lost; just be glad you had it for a while. We’ve all had a lot more than most people could dream of having. And think about little Miles who laughs when he says “All fall down.” Cheers!
Norma Libman is a journalist and lecturer who has been collecting women’s stories for more than twenty years. You can read the first chapter of her award-winning book, Lonely River Village, at NormaLibman.com.