Joyce Whitis

As yet another birthday is headed my way next month, a few random thoughts leap to mind. One of the drawbacks about my age is that everything that comes in a jar, box, tube, or plastic pouch is impossible to open without help. I bought a bottled soft drink the other day and after wearing myself out trying to twist off the cap, I had to take it back inside the store where a friendly young man popped it off with a smile. In fast food places, I just eat my fish without tartar sauce since I have to search my purse for a pair of scissors to cut off a corner of the little packet. The instructions say “Tear here.” Yeah, right!

I seldom drink anything with a pull-tab but if I do, I have to stick a screwdriver under the ring to pull it up. Lids on jelly jars need a special tool found on a can opener in my kitchen drawer to open. Recently I’ve been having trouble prying the blue plastic top off a milk bottle once the tab is pulled off and discarded.

Some bottles absolutely refuse to be opened even after being banged hard against the floor and counter top. In that case I keep my dad’s old claw hammer under the sink where I can work-over the most resisting bottle. I might have to throw it away afterward but the satisfaction of not being defeated and finally getting that lid off is worth it.

Medicine bottles are all childproof and senior citizen proof as well, I might add. The most frustration that an ailing person can experience is trying to get relief from pain and not being able to open the medicine bottle. Arthritic fingers are no match for a plastic “childproof” lid. My answer to that is to leave the lids off and then I sometimes spill those little pills that cost $5 a piece, all over the bathroom floor.

Something else you notice as the birthdays begin to pile on is that other drivers on the road are traveling way too fast. They line up on your bumper while you are pushing 65 miles an hour on a narrow piece of twisting road, then blow your doors off when you move over to let them pass.

Then there is the loss of memory thing. When you stare back at someone you’ve known for years and can’t remember her name, it makes you wonder. Personally, I think it would be a great idea if everybody wore a neat little name tag pinned to their clothing, printed in big letters of course, so you wouldn’t have to squint to read it. That way you would always know who you were talking to and could introduce them without being embarrassed because you couldn’t think of their name.

I have a tool shed with eight or ten red plastic gas cans mixed in with the flower pots and rakes. I remember to get gas for the lawn mower while I’m in town but I never remember to take a can from home. So I have to drive to Wal-Mart to buy a gas can and then try to remember where I parked my car. A couple of months ago I bought a nice new can but when I started to fill it up, couldn’t get the protective plastic thing off; the piece of packaging contrived in China where everything in America is made, meant to stop shoplifters from stealing the cap, I suppose. There was a nice man on the other side of the pump from me at the station so I asked him if he had a knife. Well, he certainly did and he took it from his pocket and cut that thing loose so I could open the lid. Men used to always carry knives and pocket handkerchiefs. They could fix a lot of stuff that way.

And by-the-way, I just might like to tell the same story over and over so there is absolutely no need for you to grin and say, “You’ve already told me that!”

When I was in school, I used to be bored out of my skull by the stories our teachers repeated and repeated. We heard the very same detailed accounts of childhood experiences and other events so often that we would just look at each other, roll our eyes and slump down in our seats when they opened their mouths. Now I feel my audience often doing the same when I began a favorite story.

Another thing I’ve noticed with each recent birthday is that the young people are all getting taller as I get shorter. One by one the grandchildren outgrew me, each one proudly showing everybody else their personal achievement. “Look,” they would say, “I’m taller than Maw!”

Now I’ve got my eyes on those great-grandchildren. I’ll swear that each one makes it a point to give me a hug, look me in the eye and smile sweetly as they pass me in height.

Guess I’ll just have to accept the battle of opening containers, watching speeding drivers whiz past, having little memory lapses, and being the shortest person older than 12 at a family reunion. I sure as heck don’t want to stop having birthdays yet.