"How To Do It" books have headed best-seller book lists since Ben Franklin taught kids to fly a kite. America's most renowned philosopher, politician, writer, scientist and printer wrote pamphlets on just about everything there was to write about from bifocal-grinding do-it-yourself journalism.
Emily Post, for example, wrote a slew of books on etiquette; Helen Gurley Brown wrote eons for single girls on the fine art of landing a man; and one particularly boring House & Garden magazine editor wrote a masterpiece on table-setting, paying particular heed to the correct placement of dessert spoons to soup spoons.
For all the reading I have done, however, and much as I have longed for an eclectic education via the printed word, I have yet to come across something the least bit helpful in last-roundup preparation. I'm talking about the knock on the door from a bent-over hooded figure weighed down with that ungainly scythe. It is not a figure you would impulsively welcome with open arms, which is why this is being written.
As Grandma used to say, "'Tis better to be on your tippy-toes, my dear, than flat on your heels." For sake of space-saving let me call this caller Rickie rather than "Reaper" and let it go at that. If you ready yourself for his inevitable visit, things will go a lot more smoothly, or so I believe without having actual proof.
For one thing - and this is paramount - don't say anything because nobody will listen, and practice being invisible because your presence has long gone unnoticed. Also, forget you ever had a name, because for the last year or so you are on this side of the grave, you will be known as "she," "her," "that woman" or "the old girl."
When my younger son was still a toddler, he walked into rooms backwards, figuring that if he couldn't see its occupants its occupants couldn't see him. Once inside the room, no matter the direction you're headed, aim for a corner chair facing a wall with space enough to droop your head - the preferred position being between the knees. No one will give you a second look because, if you've been faithfully following these tips for any length of time, you will have mastered the art of blending smoothly into the wallpaper. Cabbage-rose prints work just fine because a lot of people have heads that resemble the fully matured type of rose - not to mention its ruddy complexion.
This story is also accompanied by a disclaimer saying that my family does not ignore me very much at all and has even at times been known to have taken what I've said with a certain degree of interest. I have, by now, told my poor friends and relatives and drop-in visitors the same old stories. I can see my listeners' eyes glaze before I even get past the "have I ever told you?" stage.
I'll admit it is hard to keep boredom at bay for people who are almost 100 years old and harder yet to keep one's spirits high when aging skin gets scabbier by the minute (where do all those blotches come from anyway?), but it is possible. Even the most arduous setbacks can be mastered with sufficient practice.
Above all, and this trite little saying should be underlined: "Keep your sense of humor, and practice punch lines to perfection." When you are old and forgetful, it is perfectly all right to make up interesting stories about yourself and to take credit for the accomplishments of others. Rather than sit on a hard chair pretending to be interested in one tedious tale after another, most visitors would gladly listen to a judicious assortment of funny lies and outrageous deeds. All it takes is practice, practice, practice.