“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Groucho Marx
I can’t remember not loving a good club sandwich, although it has been a while since I have allowed my 50+ year-old carbo/fat phobic-self to indulge in one.
Old age ain’t for sissies, as Bette Davis once famously remarked. Nevertheless, I must confess to indulging in a temper tantrum or two – or 2000 – over how, thus far, my metabolism has been the premiere casualty of my advancing age. Sure, my girlfriend Wendy, three years younger than I, is recovering from hip replacement surgery, while my elementary school classmate Carole is scheduled for her own next month and friend Debbie is proudly sporting new knees. What I hunger for, however, is not a new body PART but my former, less plump, less bellied, more highly metabolized, calorie kabooming BODY…
Oh, to be able to eat like I was svelte and under 40 again.
Yet, as far as I know, no procedure called a Metabolism Replacement has strutted its stuff down the medical fashion runway. And, so, reluctantly, I have added club sandwiches – along with doughnuts, hot fudge sundaes, butter slathered baguettes, French toast, mashed potatoes, entire bags of potato chips, and anything Alfredo-ed – to my list of Dietary Do Nots.
How ironic it is, then, to learn that sociologists define me as – of all things – a CLUB SANDWICH.
Yes, you heard correctly. A Club Sandwich am I. And I have plenty of company, according to Wikipedia, which defines Club Sandwiches as anyone “in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren.” (You can also join our harried ranks early, if your issues involve juggling care of young children, aging parents and grandparents.)
However, if you know me even peripherally, my enrolling myself in Club ‘Club Sandwich’ may come as a bit of a surprise to you.
And, no, you missed no announcements. I am still not a grandmother. At least as far as I’m aware I’m not.
What I am is a poet, and we poets often work in a realm where Truth transcends the factual. Limiting us to the literal, the quantifiable is like force feeding us kryptonite—zapping, in one tedious bite, our ability to look up in the sky, be a bird, be a plane, be super.
Thus, while neither of my children has a spouse, much less offspring, THEY MAY ONE DAY…And, particularly as my daughter’s relationship with her beau grows more serious, my inner Boy Scout finds myself factoring grandchildren into my mental joyrides a good two or three times a week, whether this involves a trek through the Children’s Department en route to the Ladies Room or maneuvering advice columns on estate planning.
Meanwhile, my 83-year-old mother is very much a reality. In fact, as I type this, I am visiting her. I have traveled thousands of miles east to stay three days, then retrace those thousands of miles back west, Mama in tow, because this was the only way my mother-the-recalcitrant-terrified-phobia ridden traveler would agree to join us for the holidays. Which makes me just so sad.
Back in the day, my mother could have out-Shermaned General Sherman and obliterated legions with half a withering glance. A trained opera singer accustomed to – expecting – the spotlight, Mom never entered a room disappointed. People parted like the Red Sea to welcome her and everyone’s breath bated. Their eyes sparkled, particularly male eyes. In Mom’s hands, men were not just putty but puddles of mush.
Ah, mama…She was larger than life, was my mom. She was a titanic, Wagnerian life force. She was a goddess. She was god. There was nothing she couldn’t do, and do well. Or so it seemed. Indeed, when I took on the role of the invincible, supremely superior, stratospherically self-confident Lady Bracknell in a high school production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, I nailed the role – and, trust me, I was no actress. I simply channeled my mother.
But, in age and the airlines, Mom has met her match. Old age ain’t for sissies, and I sure as hell wish it weren’t for my mother either.
So now what?
My grandfather, who lived the last years of his life in Hollywood, California, was often mistaken for Groucho Marx. To keep everyone happy, he would smile cryptically when tourists shyly proffered an autograph book and scribble a signature, which as a kid just slayed me. Yet, while the real Groucho could resign from the Friars Club (see the opening quotation) with a witty one-liner, resigning from Club ‘Club Sandwich’ requires a price I am forever unwilling to pay, universes of tears I dread already to shed.
Granted, it is exhausting – hauling around all those slices of bread and layers of bacon, turkey, lettuce and avocado day after day, year after year. But when, inevitably, one day I grow lighter – losing, in one interminable instant, the pounds of obligations and masses of worries slathered thick as mayo atop that most precious key layer, my mother – I will mourn the loss of heft for the rest of my life.
I will accept it, of course. What choice will I have? But that doesn’t mean that, right now, I have to think about it.
So, instead, I think about my to do list.
Today, for example, I am one cranky, twitching bitch. In less than two hours, I have to escort my mother to a function…and, at the rate my writing is going, what I really need is another 800 hours uninterrupted time – sans QVC blaring in the background – to surmount the case of writer’s block that has bedeviled me for days. Except I don’t have 800 hours, drat and damnation. I only have a scant 57 minutes and counting, since tonight’s function involves being bathed, makeup-ed, and somewhat presentably coifed and coutured or my mother will never let me hear the end of it.
And did I mention – I’d love time for a nap, too. A nap that isn’t going to happen, alas, although last night my chronic insomnia had me climbing the walls and hanging like a rabid bat from the ceiling as I fretted about fitting two week’s worth of errands and work commitments and social engagements into 48 hours.
And why is that? Because a certain moron whose first name begins with J got the brilliant idea, after a solitary Awful Easter last spring, to celebrate a multi-generational Christmas, come hell or high water, this year in Rome.
But don’t get excited. For an array of reasons, Rome isn’t happening. Somehow, however, we are still blowing town – to Coronado Island, near San Diego – because the moron whose name begins with J is determined to break an interminable bad spell of holiday seasons whose plot lines have more closely resembled something out of Lord of the Flies than It’s A Wonderful Life. This year, so help this moron, she is going to out-Donna Donna Reed and tra-la-la, la de dah her delightful, good-natured, unruffled way through Christmas Day…or curse God and die in the attempt.
Barring the Donna Reed part, this is very shame-making to confess.
And, oops, I am out of time. It is time to close the laptop, to stop screaming “Go ‘Way!” at the phone when it rings or beeps, and hop docilely into the shower.
Where, perhaps if I scrub hard enough, I will scrub away the cranky, twitching bitch I have allowed myself to become and watch Queen B---- swirl her rancid way down the drain, into the sewer where she belongs. Then I’ll lift my face to the water, raise my arms high, take a deep breath, breathe it out, and imagine the shower is the waterfall at the Huntington Gardens near Pasadena, California.
I am with my friend Anne, a real live Irish mystic, and we are seated beside the stream that cascades from the fall, not far from the Pavilion of Washed Away Thoughts – our favorite place. Anne is reading aloud. And, as they always do, Anne’s words pierce, inspire and soothe me.
I watch a beautiful red leaf float past us….
Yes, I may be a Club Sandwich. Yet who knew? I am also a leaf – a smart leaf, too. I am forever finished with fighting the current. Now I merely float, and merely float and then, merely, float some more.
And wherever the Water takes me is just fine. For All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.*
And that’s the icing on the cake.
*Julian of Norwich
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