I’m not the jealous kind. I don’t consider myself to be of the envious sort, either. But there is something in the power of the AARP that calls to me. It sings to me like a nightingale on a warm summer‘s eve. It beckons me like the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking on a cold wintry day. It’s the lure of the sirens in the ocean, smiling, gently waving me in, "Come…come…," and me standing there fully clad, wanting to shred the constricting fibers from my body to join them in the warm swirling waters.
I check into a hotel and a watch members whip out their cards for a discount and I think, "I want that!" I go out to dinner with friends and overhear someone ask at the next table, "Do you give AARP discounts?" and the waiter happily replies, "Why yes, of course we do!" Again, I WANT that!! Yet I am not quite there. I haven’t quite lived up to the life experiences or the age requirements that would get me that prize of all prizes, my little red and white AARP membership card.
I am a ‘tween’. Now, I know that somewhere out there someone is thinking I’ve got a long way to go between puberty and AARP, but I am not in the general ‘tween’ genre. I’m talkin’ about us new ‘tweens’. We’re stuck somewhere between the middle of our careers and retirement. We know we are thrilled to the limit to not have to be starting a ‘working career’ all over again. Not to be at the beck and call of anyone who’s got a week more than us on the payroll clock. We look at the calendar daily. Look closely. Go ahead. Here, take my magnifying glass. See it? In the corner? In tiny little numbers? That’s how many days I’ve got til retirement. 4,392. It is a goal somewhat akin to crossing the Sahara on hands and knees with no water in sight. That oasis you keep clapping your eyes on is an early retirement package you hope will be in the offering in the next three years.
What is the allure of AARP? Why does it haunt me so? Why am I so envious when neighbors brag on all the savings they got on insurance, hotels, dinners…I want to jump up at the dinner party and yank my hair apart in the middle and shout, "LOOK! I have gray hair, too! I want my AARP card!" Its like being a kid and having to go through some kind of Kool-Aid ritual to join the clubhouse.
I would find an excuse to go over to see the folks when I knew the time for them to receive their latest issue of the AARP magazine was at hand.
"Hey, Ma! What’s up, Pop?" I’d say, snagging a baked goodie that my dad couldn’t seem to quit making.
"Weren’t you just here yesterday?" he’d ask, eyeing me suspiciously as he wrapped up the rest of the goodies before I could take another.
"Yeah, but I was passing by…hey! Let me have one more.." and he would grudgingly hand the plate back.
My mother would be sitting in her chair, glasses at the tip of her nose, reading something.
"Ayyynooo!," she’d chirp sweetly. This was her post-stroke version of a cheery "HELL-O!"
"Hiya, Ma…what’s going on?"
She’d roll her eyes and make a tiger claw out of her fist, scratching it in Pop’s direction. We’d have a giggle and she would point down to her chair cushion. I could see the corner of the AARP magazine sticking out.
We’d wait til Dad was busy puttering in the kitchen and she’d hurriedly pull out the magazine and hand it to me to stick under my sweater.
"Did he read it yet?" I’d whisper to her.
She would shake her head ‘NO’ and give me that ‘hurry and be quiet’ look, like we were sneakin’ cigs outta his shirt pocket.
I’d give her a big OK sign and say something overly loud so my dad could hear, making some kind of comment about work or a sibling and then glance at the clock and say, "Oh man! I’ve got to drop those movies off before they close! Sorry, I gotta run!" and I’d wave at my mom, who sat there smiling and nodding. I’d zip through the kitchen once more to peck dad’s cheek as I went past and say, "See ya later, Pop. Save me a brownie!".
I’d get out the door and would be skittling down the walkway when I would hear the door open and my dad call out, "You haven’t got my magazine, have you?"
"Nope! See ya!" and make a dash for the car. The guilty feeling would come later. In the meantime, I had some reading to do!