The Golden Years
by Lori Levy

I'd rather talk about pumpkin spiced latte
than aging. If anything's golden,
it's these 380 calories of sweetness I sip through a hole
in the lid of my cup when I order it for the first time
at LAX before my flight to Israel to see my sisters, brother,
nieces, nephews, and my parents, 86 and 87.

Who named them the golden years? Golden smells young,
like coconut oil. The gleam of lean muscles on a blanket
at the beach. I don't understand. Why not the walker years?
The bone-breaking years? More like the rusty years,
says my father. Corrosion, erosion. The daily strain
to see, hear, remember. To balance on tired legs,
the body no longer a friend. He notes one benefit:
no worries anymore about the long-term side effects
of medications. My mother models the new shirt I've brought her
and reminds us, in case we need reminding, it's important to laugh.

Late October now and the sun shines on two canes
slanting against their chairs in a restaurant at the beach
in Ashdod, where we take them for lunch, a table outside,
because they want to see the sea, haven't seen it for years.

At home, in the Negev desert, he grinds coffee beans,
and every day after lunch makes strong filtered coffee
from the beans she still orders from the shop in Jaffa.
Later, after dinner, they eat grapes, prunes, dates
and finish with espresso, sipping from cups they bought once
in Italy, perhaps, or received from loved ones. They pour some for me.
We talk and pause, drink, listen. I begin to believe that, as the body shrinks,
the self expands. Raw, exposed, it opens like a gift
to any who will receive it. Offering its gold, collected over years. Nuggets
that come to me now with the gentle savoring of black and bitter—surely as good as
pumpkin spiced latte slurped through a lid before boarding a flight.

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