The new topic of conversation with the old folks I do windows for is health. They tell me about their cancer and their triple bypasses, and I tell them about my triple-A aneurysm surgery. They take in my neck brace and ask what happened, and I say, “Just some messed up vertebrae.” This is a long way from how it was when I first started cleaning windows and now and then a young housewife made a pass at me.

Yesterday I did a farm house I’ve been doing for years. There’s a senile woman in a wheelchair who spends her days staring out a big bay window, and a man with a litany of operations behind him and a belly full of hernia mesh like me. We compared the pros and cons of having mesh sewed into our bodies, and then I remarked that my stamina isn’t what it used to be. A rancher all his life, he replied, “It’ll get worse as you get older.”

I smiled and casually asked his age. I expected something between 60 and 65, and then I was going to hit him with my age, 69, and impress the hell out of him. He said 83.

“Get out of here!” I said. Christ, he has a head of black hair, clear blue eyes, and a flat stomach.

“Yep,” he said. “That’s what all the doctors say, too.”

I kept my age to myself.

He wrote a check, we shook hands, and I adjusted my neck brace and went out into the cold, realizing that for the past three years I’ve been asking him how his mother in the wheelchair is doing, when his mother is his wife.

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