By Deb Herz
Saturdays with Marge
Every Saturday morning, I visit my friend Marge. Sometimes I bring fortune cookies. We eat our cookies first, and then I read Marge our fortunes. Usually they’re spot on.
Last week, our futures looked so bleak that Marge and I added the words “in bed” to our fortunes just to spice things up.
Trust yourself. You know more than you think. In bed.
The way to get to the top is to get off your bottom. In bed.
A few extra bucks could be coming your way. In bed.
Marge has macular degeneration, the wet kind, so she’s almost totally blind. She can see shadows, barely, but not details. She can’t see things like bugs, but she keeps a can of Raid near her recliner just in case.
One Saturday morning she said, “Let me feel your boobs.”
At least that’s what I thought she said. What she really said was “let me feel your boots.”
With a T. Not a B.
I had on my leather cowboy boots, like the ones her hippie son Walt used to wear. Seven years ago, Walt sat down in front of a tree and shot himself one Sunday morning while his wife was at church. Marge didn’t see it coming. Nobody did.
Someday Marge will lose her eyesight completely, but she doesn’t let that stand in her way. She wasn’t always blind, so she knows where everything in her house is. She gets around pretty well with her walker on wheels that has a basket under the seat. She’s wise and funny and has better vision that most people I know who can see. I call her “My Armchair Guru.”
Marge talks a lot about the past. About how her mother would soak slices of bread in milk and tape them to her knees whenever Marge fell down and skinned them up. About how being “on the rag” really meant shoving rags in your underpants when it was that time of the month because Tampons and Kotex with wings hadn’t been invented yet. About her daughter, who doesn’t talk to Marge anymore, and the tree house she played in with her kittens when she was a kid. About her son Jeffrey, who handles all the bills and buys her milk from Cumberland Farms, the kind that comes in screw-top containers. About her husband, Walt, who died 33 years ago, but whom Marge still misses to this day.
Sometimes Marge will drop the “F” bomb.
“Excuse me,” she’ll say, like she’s just burped or something worse, but I don’t mind. I just want to cheer. I hope when I’m in my 80s I’ll still be able to let it rip like that.
Marge’s house is loaded with clocks. Some tick, some chime. There’s a cuckoo clock that doesn’t work until you force it and a talking clock next to her bed. None of her clocks tell the same time, but that doesn’t annoy me at all.
Marge just takes one day at a time. She’s been around the sun 85 times and has clocked 31,025 days without a cell phone, WiFi, computer or iPad. When she could see, some of her favorite things were going to the Dollar Store, having yard sales and watching her husband, Walt, whistle for the whippoorwills, and then feed them seeds straight from his hand. Squirrels would come and eat right out of his hand too.
“It got to the point where they would knock on the windows if he didn’t feed them,” Marge says. “It got to be too much.”
Some of Marge’s favorite things right now are ice cream with peanut butter in it, “60 Minutes,” and hard-boiled eggs. The only thing that seems to upset her is when her toilet gets clogged.
If Marge could change the past, she wouldn’t do it. Parts, maybe, but not the whole. “Where would you be now if you changed one thing?” she says. “It would be like passing out in one room and waking up somewhere you’ve never been before.”
Marge says you’re nothing without a past – good, bad, or indifferent. “You can’t live without regrets,” she says. “How else would you learn?”
If she could, Marge wouldn’t mind knowing the future. The day her father died he told her in the morning it was going to be that afternoon. She got all worked up, but the family came and everyone got to say goodbye. He passed that day, just like he said he would.
“I wouldn’t mind knowing the date I’m going to die,” Marge says. “That way I could make sure I looked halfway decent. I’d put on my uniform – my sweatshirt and jeans – and make my bed.”
If Marge had a job writing fortunes in a fortune cookie factory, you know what cookie she would write for me?
“Don’t change,” she says. “Stay just the way you are.”
I don’t know too many people who would say that. Most of us are too worried about the past or the future to be happy where we are right now. But yesterday’s gone and tomorrow’s not here yet. All we have is the here and now. This moment. That’s all we can really count on. That’s all we really have to look forward to.
That, and Saturdays with Marge.