An Essayby Donald Hall
In your eighties it gets hard to walk. Nearing ninety it’s exhausting to pull your nightshirt on.
You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down. You are old when an essay of reminiscence takes eighty-four drafts. You are old when mashed potatoes are difficult to chew, or when you guess it’s Sunday because the mail doesn’t come. It might be Christmas. In your eighties you take two naps a day. Nearing ninety you don’t count the number of naps. In your eighties you don’t eat much. Nearing ninety, you remember to eat.
You are old when your longtime friend Melvin, turned seventy-five, writes you in a rage about becoming old. Working to finish a new book, the author of Essays After Eighty tells Melvin that Melvin knows nothing about old age: Melvin can walk upstairs! Melvin flies to the West Indies with his girlfriend and his wife!
In your eighties you are invisible. Nearing ninety you hope nobody sees you. At nineteen you were six-foot-two. At ninety-one you will be two-foot-six.