“Can I come and stay with you for a while?” my friend Pnina asks me on the phone. Her voice sounds small and kind of weepy.
“What happened?” I want to know.
“I had a big fight with Adam, he decided that I cheated on him!”
‘What? Why? Now at the age of eighty? You’ve never cheated on him before.
“I’ll be eighty only next month! And no I did not, and I don’t cheat on him now! But I leave the house twice a week and I don’t tell him where I go. Actually I told him I am at the university library; he went to look for me there and did not find me. So this is what created the storm!”
“So where are you really going, Pnina?”
“Well, you see, I’ve decided to take tennis lessons. It is not easy because I have changed already three different instructors, they say it’s kind of late at my age!”
“They are right! No one starts to play tennis at eighty! Why don’t you do something else, like riding a bicycle instead?”
“Please get this right! I’ll be eighty next month only! I still run very well, I always run after disappearing buses in spite of all warnings, I attend an aerobics class and I am learning to play tennis as a birthday present for Adam. He has played tennis since the age of 10. And lately I have no idea who he plays tennis with! He also disappears twice a week and I don’t know on which tennis court I can find him. So there are two reasons: First I want to surprise him, and secondly I want to be the one he plays with!”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Pnina. I also want to make two points; first this kind of fight can become a big thing, one remark leads to another, you leave the house, and before you know it, your marriage is in jeopardy. Secondly, my apartment is too small and my sofa is small too, so if you want to spend the night, I can’t promise you great comfort.”
“All right,” I hear Pnina’s small voice, “I’ll try some of my other friends!”
Replacing the receiver after this phone call, I think to myself how much I enjoy learning about this kind of situation. Pnina is not young, her husband is 3 years older and yet he is jealous and suspicious and she wants to be the one he plays with, rather than having him play with someone she doesn’t know. What a lovely situation which – in a way – makes me realize that it is up to us to stay young and romantic even at should I say an unreasonable age?!
It is such a nice change after my usual telephone calls when friends complain about failing health, failing memory, which I myself complain so often about, or dissatisfaction with a certain doctor.
Just before Pnina’s exciting phone call Malka called me and her call went as follows:
“I am so tired!! I am tired of doctors and pills and now I need some costly physiotherapy which I am sure won’t help me! You know something, Lucca? I simply have had enough! I have had two marriages, one good, one bad, I’ve raised 3 children, two good, one bad, I’ve traveled all throughout the world, I’ve lost friends to sickness and death, what is there for me to expect?”
Shall I tell her to take up tennis?
Growing old is an attitude, which may not depend entirely on ourselves, but we certainly can contribute, the good and the bad. Living in a house like the Elisha Towers, and having many people around me, I see people who are quite old at the age of 65, and others who are young at ninety plus. Is it attitude, genes or just plain good luck?
And then I remember meeting Gina in a bookshop. One week before I had been invited to Gina’s 83rd birthday. Now I watched her while she was paying for a book on Italy which she had just bought.
“Why?” I asked her.
“I booked myself a trip in June! I don’t want to die before I see Venice!”
“Are you going with a group?”
“No, I fly to Berlin by myself, stay there for a while, and from there I fly to Venice! I dream of being serenaded by a gondolier in a gondola!”
“So that’s it? The gondolier is the great attraction?”
“Of course not, but…if I meet someone nice on this trip, I’d really be delighted!”
As I said before, age has nothing to do with it!