Friday, January 27, 2012

A Change in Fantasies

I remember it with the clarity of yesterday: the moment when, as a junior in college, I was sitting around a dorm room with some friends and my roommate Ruth suddenly asked the group: "If you could have sex with a movie star, which one would you choose?"

This fired imaginations all around and, as I remember, Sean Connery and Paul Newman emerged as the most popular fantasy lovers. When my turn came, I shrugged. "I wouldn't want to have sex with a movie star," I said. "Actors are so self-centered in general. I don't find them appealing."

The others looked at each other and rolled their eyes. "But if you HAD to," Ruth insisted. "If you absolutely HAD to have sex with a movie star, who would it be?"

I thought the options over and finally said "Jack Lemmon."

The group erupted with derisive laughter. "Jack Lemmon???" Ruth gasped between convulsions of mirth. "Why in the world would you pick him? He's not sexy at all!"

"Yes, but he looks like he'd be a nice person," I said, a bit defensively. "That means a lot to me: a guy being thoughtful and good to me -- movie star or not."

My dorm mates snickered.

How times change.

Movies stars are less on my mind these days than thoughts about the times ahead. Fantasies about movie star sex -- fueled by youth and the vast expanse of endless possibilities on the horizon -- have given way to reality-fueled fears and fantasies about what future remains and what it may hold.

I talked with my friend Mary -- whom I'm going to visit again next week -- yesterday and she told me the sad news that her husband John has gone downhill alarmingly -- both physically and cognitively -- in the two months since I last saw them.

My dear friend Sister Rita -- whom I will also visit next week -- is fighting cancer.

My friend and neighbor Phyllis is having a very difficult recovery from thyroid surgery two weeks ago. She has lived with cancer for some years now and is a champion at bouncing back. But this surgery -- which did not involve cancer -- has laid her low. She is in pain and has no energy. Her voice is weak and raspy, words coming between gasps. She called me last night and said something I've never heard her utter before: "I feel like I could die. I've never felt so bad before."

And it makes my heart ache for these friends I love so much. And it makes me think about my own future as well.

How many healthy years do I have left? Will there be enough time to write the books I long to write? To do the traveling we still want to do? To enjoy the ordinary, everyday routines of life: exercise, errands, going to the movies and the library and just having great conversations with Bob?

I have fantasies of racing the clock to do and enjoy it all. And a new take on the word "when..." has crept into our conversations. It came up after we cleaned the house today. Leaning against the kitchen counter, suddenly weary from his efforts, Bob said "I suppose there will come a time -- not yet, but someday -- when we will probably hire someone to do our housecleaning."

I nodded, thinking of a time when arthritis and age would preclude the sweeping, mopping and vacuuming we had just finished.

"But I always want to do our own laundry," Bob added. "I can't imagine asking anyone else to wash our clothes, can you?"

"We'll keep on doing the laundry," I agreed.

Unspoken as yet are some fleeting thoughts about the future: will we be able to manage taking care of our home and ourselves for the rest of our lives? Will we outlive all our pets? And, if so, when is too late -- in all fairness -- to adopt another cat? When we finally trade in our 10-year-old car for a new one -- hopefully, not for another few years -- will that car be our last? How will we manage at some future time if neither of us can drive anymore?

And death, which seemed so impossibly far away in youth, has become something we can readily imagine these days. When I think of dying, I hope it will be as my parents, my aunts and my grandmother died -- suddenly, while fully living life. My preference, of course, is that this quick demise will come at a much older age -- like Aunt Molly or my grandmother -- rather than my parents, who were my present age when they died.

Such musings have prompted us to update our wills, health directives and power of attorney documents. There is a list of people to contact, our wishes regarding funeral arrangements and provisions for any surviving pets.

Such thoughts also highlight the wisdom of not putting off what's important -- whether it's writing those books I've always wanted to write or taking those trips to see ailing dear ones or to go on faraway adventures or simply saying "I love you so much!" to those who matter most to me.

Yes, as the years have passed, my fantasies have changed. I haven't thought about Jack Lemmon for ages.

On the other hand, if George Clooney -- who is sexy and seems like a nice guy, too -- made me an offer...well, I could be persuaded.


  1. I laughed heartily at your last line! Great one! But also, your characteristic wisdom rings true. Thank you for leaving us with meaty things to ponder.

  2. Great last line. Perhaps THAT would be a great way to go out!

    I relate to all you are saying way too well. We just hired a housekeeper because we can't manage this large house since our recent bouts with illness and injury. I am seriously suggesting that we look into moving somewhere more manageable and closer to the children. Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to really face that decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later.

  3. George Clooney, eh?
    We have broken down and hired a service to help us maintain our property, do heavy cleaning and de-clutter, keep things spruced up. There are property management teams that are pro at these things. My people fix little things that I had ignored for years!

    We are slowing down and may need a bit of help here and there.

  4. I think about these things too, as I keep realizing with a start that I no longer have the physical strength or agility I once had, and as I see our parents age and get frail. The years go by all too fast at this point. How do we balance it all? One eye on our grown kids who are not yet settled (one with a chronic illness), one eye on our folks who are needing more help ... and still treading the daily grind ourselves which makes it difficult to do the extras we might enjoy. I guess the only way to proceed is to think hard about how to wring some "us" and some "me" time out of each week.

  5. There are so many things we want to do and less and less energy to put into doing them. It's hard to let go of some dreams and fantasies -- but George Clooney is a good one to go out on!!

  6. Ha Ha---George Clooney, huh???? Sounds like a good plan.. It's true though that things which were important to us when we were young (such as what celebrity is HOT and which one is not) are not so important now as we get older.

    I've been through death (both parents and my two brothers are all dead now) ---but losing a great friend to cancer this summer really hit me hard..

    And getting sick and ultimately having surgery this past October really shook me up... Guess it made me take stock of my life and realize that none of us will be here forever. We need to live each day to its fullest and stay as healthy as possible.

    Sorry about your friends who are suffering. I will keep them in my prayers.

    Have a great weekend.

  7. Sweetie...
    If George Clooney asks....go ahead. It's O.K.!

  8. You're so smart to think ahead, but it is a difficult step to get to the point where you take action. I hope you have many good years to enjoy your retirement.

  9. I had to laugh about Jack Lemmon. My ex husband looked just like him and I thought he looked quite sexy.
    After a certain age, death does creep into our thoughts. I try not to waste what time and mobility I have but I know when the time comes, I may think--"Gee, I wish I had------"

  10. Kathy, this post makes me smile in many ways, and here's why. First, as a kid , when we played movie star, I never picked Sandra Dee or Hayley Mills. I was Judy Holliday or Jane Wyman. Go figure. They were more interesting. When my friend Gina worked with me at the public television station, our bulletin board held press photos of some of our favorites. She had Robert Redford and Pierce Brosnan. I had Woody Allen and Dick Cavett. They were more real.

    I think a lot about living the right way as I edge near retirement. As you know, I have chronic illness issues and a work environment that has undergone tremendous change leaving us with a management that seems cold, top down, hypocritical. I need to work for another year and a half, and in principle, I wouldn't mind going longer. And yet, like your friends, I have seen my mother die too young, my father retire only to be ill and become a changed man before his death, friends who have left too soon and those who are here but challenged in an untimely way. I start to think, to plan, to make the right choices. And yes, the thoughts that go through my head now are less "what movie star turns you on" than "what do I really want to do before I can't do it anymore." I suspect it's a good thing to consider this issue. Too many wait too long.

  11. Your thoughts are our thoughts too, except that we have already given in and are paying others to do the jobs we could, theoretically, still do, which would, however, take all the energy we have and would like to save for those things we'd rather do.

    I am not sure that I want to make any changes or tick things off a list; I'd just like to live happily and free from pressure. I have been very ill several times, also with cancer and a thyroid operation unrelated to cancer. i also have heart problems and have had kidney problems. It isn't true that people who have survived illness necessarily live life more determinedly than they did before. All of that vanishes quite quickly again.

    I must think about this more and perhaps write about it, if only to clear my own thoughts.

  12. Oh my gosh - you are so funny yet so honest. I love it and I have to tell you that recently my mind has been thinking the same way. I'm getting older. More and more people are sick. It's like when you talk to someone you tell them the health of the people around you! Sandie

  13. My dream man must have an English accent. Peter makes fun of me every time I watch Masterpiece Theatre or a movie with Jeremy Irons. I don't know what I would do if he called. Probably hide in the closet. Not knowing you and Bob very well but reading what you write about your lives and your relationship, I think you will both live forever! You give so much to enrich others' lives. Take special care.

  14. My Fantasy that abided was Yul Brynner... back when most peeps didn't think bald was sexy, so it was considered an odd choice. His voice, Free Spirited Life... even if he had not been so Handsome and Exotic... I would have still thought him the Ideal Fantasy. Of coarse, I read his bio and realize that even our Fantasies are Real People and not all that and a bag of chips... just regular people we've put on pedestals on the canvas of our Imaginations. I'm just glad I finally found and Married my for Real Dream Man... and can die a content & Blessed Woman! *Smiles* Dawn... The Bohemian