Curtain Call

Every day I become a player on Shakespeare’s stage. I get up, do my  ablutions, and then go about my business: writing; teaching part-time at the local university; strolling through the tree-lined neighborhood; walking to the library to replenish my supply of books; and, napping, watching television and napping again. I smile at students and colleagues, bid pedestrians a good day, and share a book recommendation with the librarian.

It is all an act: a pretense.

Ever since I turned seventy on August 8, 2017, I have lived in a state of fear. Seventy has made me feel old and vulnerable: morbidly aware that I have more decades behind me than await me. I do not believe that I will make it to age 98 like my dad did, or even to 87 like my mother. I worry that stress from daily life, constant pain from a jaw prosthetic, grief over the loss of my dad almost four years ago, and intense anxiety caused by everything and nothing will end my life before I can even attempt to enjoy my so-called golden years.

While I do not make frequent trips to the emergency room or bombard my primary care physician with calls, I do focus too much on my health. A spasm in my stomach must be cancer; a pain from sleeping on my left arm must be a heart attack; and, a headache must be the start of a brain tumor. I did not think like this prior to turning seventy; now, this is all I think about.

I toss and turn at night, imagining how my two adult children will deal with life after I die. Neither is married; neither has a partner or a child. Will they be there for each other, or will my demise result in their leading lives of loneliness and aloneness? What will happen to the needlepoints I so painstakingly designed and made, to the Broadway T-shirts that reflect my love of theatre, to the knickknacks I treasure? Where will I be when the world dares to continue without me? 

I jokingly remind myself that getting older beats the alternative. When people tell me that I don’t look seventy-one, I pretend to believe their lie. But I am scared: frightened to live, afraid to die.  

No amount of pretending can stop the curtain from descending on my life.

Ronna Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 



3 thoughts on “Curtain Call”

  1. Such beautiful writing from someone facing all the obstacles of aging and a few more. She worries needlessly about her children who will grow closer as they share the grief of missing her. The needlepoints may be given to her favorite theater or theater director. the beginning and end so beautiful interlace. Meditate more, take guilt-free naps, and be your beautiful self.

  2. A sobering essay, Ronna. Sending you support as you negotiate this phase of life. I’m younger than you, but dealing with serious illness for the past 5 years. People tell me, “You look great!” so I understand the feeling when people tell you that you don’t look your age. A favorite quote: “The bell curve does not favor me, but a bell curve is not destiny…. Am I hopeful? Not exactly. I am trying to live until tomorrow, and then tomorrow.” -Paul Zweig, “Departures”

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