Posted by: chlost | December 7, 2014

The Merry Lives of War, Sir (*with aplologies to Will Shakespeare)

For some reason, I’ve recently been hearing a lot about the “Third Act”. Apparently this is the new euphemism for getting older. The theory being that life is like a play, written in three acts before the final curtain.


Shakespeare is not life, Hamlet be damned.

Life is made up of three epic battles, as I see it. Youth, old age, and the demilitarized zone in between the two.

As a young person, we struggle against the world to make our place. In our family, we fight with our siblings for the attention of our parents, we fight against our parents in order to become independent. We battle our age mates for grades, friends and jobs. We go up against rivals for a life partner. We fight with our life partner to maintain our individuality within the confines of a marriage or longterm relationship. We protect and fight for our young children who depend on us. Our weapons in this battle of youth include anger, righteousness, physical strength and pride.

When we reach old age, the fight is against time. We fight to maintain our health, our independence and our mental capacity. Our strength in this battle may wane, but we use the weapons of activity, chemistry, medicine and good humor as long as we are able.

And then there is the demilitarized zone.. That time span of just a few years when we are not young, but we are not old yet, either. It is finally possible to relax. Just a little. Rest upon our laurels, so to speak, and reap what we have sown. The span of this zone varies among us, but it is usually shorter than those on either side of it.  We await the upcoming battle of old age, but we know we have some time to enjoy the life we have built. If we are lucky and have chosen well, our family and careers will flourish and support us during this time.

The DMZ. For women, it is that short interval of time between Tampax and Depends. Men may see this as the time between pleas for assistance in opening pickle jars and pleas of “let me help you with that”.

It is fleeting, this middle time. We must enjoy it for as long as possible.

And then, there is this. The time of being within the DMZ, but helping those who are either side of it.

My mom, at age 84, is definitely in the old age category (she probably would deny this, as she complains about all of the old people at her assisted living facility-she does not include herself in that group). I am entering into the DMZ. She needs the Depends. I am the one who has to buy them for her. When I go through the checkout at Target, with that huge package, I know-I just know- that the young clerk thinks that the package is for me. I have to restrain myself from screaming out loud what I say in my head, “No! These are NOT for me! I am not old!”

My kids are all adults, We recently saw that last child marry. My youngest son is the father of three young daughters. Our daughter lives with her husband in Pennsylvania. They are all still fighting the battle of youth-establishing their careers, families and homes. They have each needed help in different ways at varying times in their lives. We, of course help when and as we can. That assistance comes in the form of money, emotional support, time, or advice. Sometimes all at once. We are paying for student loans at the same time that we are planning our retirement.

Every time that I start to worry about getting older, or wonder about what the future may hold for Merle and me as we near retirement, I try to remember: these few years are precious. We need to embrace this time. Cling to it and squeeze out every minute of it. We’ll get through it.

I’m ready to sit back and enjoy this  and laugh at all that may come our way. And prepare for the battle ahead.



  1. Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ! Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT? ‘Cause if it leaks to the VC he could end up MIA, and then we’d all be put on KP

  2. Well said. Never have I been more cognizant of time than this past year with battles to wage (still waging) and my mom falling and the subsequent selling of her home. In many ways, this has been a year of grieving.

    But soldier on I must and determine, like you, to sit back, enjoy and laugh.

  3. Never heard of it as the Third Act, but that’s what I get for living so far from the trends of “civilization”. I have this feeling that the moment the final curtain comes down I will understand what it was all about. Or not.

  4. Oh, that’s a grim thought.

  5. Enjoy the DMZ. 🙂

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