Turning 65 makes me eligible to become a crazy, old cat lady

The number 65 doesn’t frighten me, because that’s all it is. A number.

There are those among us, of course, who make 65 out to be more than a number. The big 6-5 is their big, bad boogeyman, playing them like a fiddle. Messing with their minds. Making them believe they’re old. Too old for this, too old for that and too old for some other things.

Not moi.

I look at turning 65 this way: I’m not too old to do something—I’m old enough to do anything and get away with it.

Question is, what do I want to get away with?

In one sense, it’s sort of like being a kid again. Like when a parent or a teacher or a coach or an aunty or a neighbor would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’d say stuff like a doctor or a fire fighter or a hockey player or an astronaut or a movie star or a princess. Some of us grew up to become what we dreamed of becoming, whether it be by happenstance, luck or design, while others settled for the dreariness of a clock-watching, 9-to-5 existence.

In either case, once past the working weigh station in life, it’s time to hop on another horse and travel a different trail, even if there isn’t quite as much giddyup in your getalong.

Much pause for ponder has been devoted to this matter and, scant days before I blow out the prairie fire that will be my 65th birthday cake, I have arrived at no resolution. At best, I have ruled out certain things. Like public toilets. I shall never again clean a public toilet. Ever. I spent eight of my final 10 working years applying spit and polish to porcelain, also scrubbing surrounding floors, and I’ve exhausted my supply of elbow grease. No more grunt work for this girl.

I have also discounted any possibility of becoming a crazy, old cat lady, even though turning 65 surely makes me eligible.

I suppose every town should have a cat lady. We had one in Winnipeg back in the day, Bertha Rand. She took in strays like the Titanic took on water. Estimates put her kitty count anywhere from two to four dozen, and she fought City Hall to keep them all. At one point, 73-year-old Bertha spent five hours in jail before an unidentified benefactor sprung her by paying a $250 fine for hoarding cats. When she wasn’t in the brig or cleaning litter boxes, Bertha often railed against the system on CJOB, shrieking at investigative reporter Peter Warren as if one of her kitties was clawing at her colon. In rare softer moments, she would call in to Red Alix’s morning show, Beefs and Bouquets, and offer a kind word to someone or something.

I can still hear my mom shouting to my dad, who’d be in another room, “Michael, Bertha’s on the radio again!” and us kids would have a bit of a giggle about crazy, old cat lady Bertha.

The thing is, everyone in town talked about Bertha for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not sure I want everyone in Victoria talking about me because my home smells like cat pee. Besides, felines and I long ago arrived at a mutual understanding that if we were to cross paths it’s best that we keep going our separate ways.

I truly do not know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Other than write, of course.

I enjoy early mornings with my muse. It is my preferred time of the day, from 1 o’clock, when the world is dark, still and silent, until the cock crows and the city streets begin to wear the bustle of a fresh dawn. Some days, the words are a challenge and come together grudgingly. Others, they laugh and dance and engage in playful pranks.

This morning, I find them in somber reflection, for this is a significant week for me, given that Nov. 25 marks the sixth anniversary of my gender corrective surgery and, two days later, I arrive at the big 6-5.

It’s been quite a journey thus far. And oh so interesting. I’m looking forward to the next chapter…I hope it’s the cat’s meow.

then and now

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