Illustration: Denis Shifrin
When you have dinner or coffee with your friends, what do you talk about? My youngest son and his wife in London talk about weddings, houses and babies with their contemporaries. My daughter and her peers talk about children, schools, summer camps, supermarkets and their shul. My son, on the other hand, who is a rabbi in Jerusalem, discusses the week’s portion - פרשת השבוע, the children and the yeshiva world of which he is a part.
We, however, find ourselves increasingly discussing health, old age homes and cemeteries around the dinner table. Inevitably, death creeps into almost any conversation in some way. I just sit back and wait for it to happen. Oh yes, of course, as reflected by ESRA’s positively inclined magazine, we have had a wonderful life since making aliyah. We go to the theater, we volunteer, we go on holiday and we talk about these with our friends who are doing exactly the same things as we are. And naturally, being in Israel - and some of us originating from Europe - we talk politics too. However, those pesky health issues still raise their heads. The visits to doctors, dentists and, if it’s not us, then it’s the health of our children or grandchildren and friends. We talk about the best doctor we’ve found in this city or the best dentist and; “How did you get on at the hospital this week?”, or “What does he charge for implants?”
At a recent get-together, however, our hostess raised a different subject. It was fascinating for me and, it appeared, for everyone else present too. “Does it take you longer to get ready in the evening or in the morning?” she asked. Once upon a time, I never noticed what I did before I went to bed, I absolutely do not remember. Nor did I ever notice what I needed to do to face the day. Now that we have retired, I am overwhelmed by the number of things that have to be completed either late at night or early in the morning. In the evening - the shower, the make-up removal, the eye drops, the glass of water by the bed, the long teeth-clean with an electric toothbrush that sounds like a pneumatic drill, the flossing - take over my life. Now, if I have a chance, I have a shower before supper and I eke out the other actions throughout the evening so they don’t bunch up as I wearily head to my bed. The morning is almost as bad (and some of our friends were showering in the morning so that added to their list). Again, the teeth-cleaning, the moisturiser, the eye cream, the two glasses of water, the Chinese medicine routine (don’t ask!) and the yoga. The imbibing of probiotics, B12 and gentle iron can be added to this list. Then I always have exactly the same breakfast every single day. All Bran Original with grapes, since you ask. What did I used to eat when I was younger? Who knows, who remembers? And since we’re on the subject, why don’t they sell All Bran Original in Israel anymore? Now my poor friends from the UK come laden with All Bran on every single visit, otherwise I run out. And I always watch the news whilst I’m eating my breakfast. Why can’t I eat and do something else? Why do I always have to do the same thing? What is it with our age group? Our routines take over our lives. And I don’t like it one little bit.