It used to irritate me no end whenever I got a call from an unlisted number. I considered it quite nervy. I did not recognize the number, but I knew somehow who was calling: not anyone I’d wish to talk to, ever. They’d be offering me another credit card or a loan, which, at my age, I need like a hole in the head.
But where was this disproportionate anger coming from? Why couldn’t I take it kindlier? After all, the call was from some call center fellow just trying to make a living off a pushy job.
There was a time when I wasn’t so quickly irritated, a time, in fact, when nothing seemed worth my anger. I reserved it for the bigger stuff. What has happened? I suspect a buildup of frustrations to such extent that even small additions, like needing my glasses to look for my eyeglasses, or being unable to get out of the car as easily as I used to, became a temper-triggering aggravation.
Frustrations over things I could do nothing about, like the political situation, which can set pulse rates soaring, were naturally worse. I sometimes had to catch my breath after reading or hearing about the latest distasteful, insane, murderous pronouncement issued, or act done, by the administration.
At any rate, I have begun to realize that, to avoid becoming a collateral victim, I should be able to manage my anger. One thing that works fast for me is recalling the story of the matron who suffered a heart attack venting her anger at a new maid who had plugged a 110-voltage appliance she had just brought back from the United States into a 220-v socket. She went as quickly as the appliance.
It does take some effort, but I usually manage not to blow my own fuse. With regard to unwanted calls, I text back a ready-made answer: Sorry, I can’t talk to you now. Later, in my own time and on a chance that I may have been mistaken, I text back, “Who is this please?” When no answer comes, I know it’s them.
Once, I was indeed mistaken. The call was from visiting American cousins who pop up unannounced every other year and get assigned a different number each time. Moreover, they don’t text, they call. According to them, it costs as much, and calling is easier.
I should have suspected as much from their persistence. My confused and now hurting cousins started thinking they might have somehow offended me on their last visit. And, to fuel their fears, one of them remembered sending me a joke earlier in the year I didn’t reply to.
Sometimes out of such misunderstandings family feuds are provoked. Oh, do we have some of those; one of the longest has finally been resolved, and, at our ages, it just isn’t the time to start another.
Nastiness becomes no one. Me, I could become a poor imitation of a Maggie Smith or a Kate Hepburn sans their elegance in bearing and wardrobe. No matter what I wear, I cannot be at my prettiest or my most photogenic. It’s definitely not a state I’d like to sustain.
Three role models
While still in control of some things, I try to watch myself closely. I hold up three role models. One is my Tita Noring, even-tempered, quick to smile, but tough. Her two children used to refer to her—lovingly of course—as Stonewall Jackson. She was so organized and disciplined. She lived into her 90s.
Another is Tita Ning, feisty, yet lovable. She left at 89. No matter how cutting or otherwise nasty she was, she couldn’t shake off people’s fondness for her. Her hard façade didn’t fool anybody, especially not the people she loved. I myself saw that big, overprotective and generous heart of hers for the downtrodden.
And there’s my impossible dream—my Lola Enchay of the disarming smile! She remained sweet, strong and funny until the end, at 92.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t see myself becoming like any of them. But everyone seems agreed that growing old with some grace calls, for one thing, for a conscious effort to choose between a smile and frown.
Indeed, I have much to smile about in all my 77 years. Oh, yes, I do have my own few regrets, a few unfortunate things I should never have done, friendships and relationships broken by a careless word or a thoughtless act. Still, these are not enough to justify wearing less than a smile on my face.
Surely, that’s what we all want to be—one of those pleasant old ladies who find every reason throughout the day to smile, knowingly.