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The Sixth Age
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Tiny Rena Shelstein reached with her bony 84-year old right arm, searching for the light switch in the dark. She found it easily, since it was exactly at the height of her head, though she was never afraid of the dark anyway. Raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 20th century, by Jewish Communist parents, Rena, a red diaper baby from the cradle onward, was fearless in the face of many things, and since her beloved Cyril died, she was glad for that fearlessness. She spoke out loud to Cyril now as she always did when she was alone in the dark.
“Oy, Cyril darling, they keep this club room so damned cold, you could freeze your pupick, dear one. Why the hell do they keep it so cold?”
As she arranged the chairs for the meeting of the Village Idiots Drama Club,
She imagined Cyril’s gruff voice telling her to be glad for the air conditioning, to remember when they had none, how they nearly melted in their downtown flat when they first got married. She continued their conversation.
“I know, I know, I should be grateful for a lot of things, husband, but right now I am turning into an icicle! And you’re not here to warm me up!, You schmendrick you. If you were here I’d slap you for dying on me. “
She finished the circle of ten chairs, and began to unload the drama club supplies out of the cupboard. They were stored on the lowest shelves, for her convenience. Rena was very short, and had been her entire life. Somehow she never grew to be the tall woman she always imagined herself to be, and now, with advanced age, she had shrunk even more, so that she seemed to herself to be barely there at all.
But her mind was. And so was her fierce, enormous spirit. Also intact were her deep love for all things theatrical, so , once she and Cyril moved from their West End Avenue apartment into the Village at 49th and 10th, right in the heart of the NYC’s theater district, she di sit still for very long, but immediately hung a sign up sheet for anyone interested in starting a drama club.
“How wonderful,” she’d said to her beloved Cyril “At last, I’ll be playing on Broadway! Or a few blocks away, anyway! How about that?”
The door to the Club Room suddenly burst open and in walked Harry, a youngster of 82. He was, as usual, angry about something.
“Oysdarn zol bay dir der moyekh!” Harry exclaimed over his shoulder as the door shut behind him
Rena knew enough Yiddish to instantly translate. She wondered whose brain Harry was hoping would dry up with the curse.

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