January 2023

What Does That Woman Have To Live For?

That woman was my mother: the occasion, her 37th birthday. 

I was 12, and my life stretched before me, just loaded with possibilities. I couldn’t imagine my mom doing anything more exciting or impactful than dishes or another load of laundry.

Cess Guzzetta (middle) with friends.

Decades have passed, as has my mom. My life no longer stretches before me. Indeed, I’ve started counting backward. Let’s see…I’m 76 years old and probably have another 12 “good years” left. By “good,” I’m thinking years where I hope to be free of chronic pain, be mobile, and can still remember a lot of stuff.  

Cess Guzzetta is a retired attorney living in Rochester, New York

My husband of over 40 years passed away eight years ago. My daughters married incredible men, men I would have picked (as if they would have given me a choice!). My grandchildren are cute, brilliant, and well-cared-for. I am retired and self-sufficient. So what do I have to live for? What do I want my counting-backward years to look like? 

I thought I’d know by now, but I don’t.   

have discovered puttering, which is vastly underrated. Pulling weeds and cutting fresh flowers, trying my hand at painting, and picking up (and putting down) needlework projects as suit my mood is satisfying, up to a point. It’s probably the freedom to wander from one thing to the next, rather than the activities themselves, that’s so satisfying.  

And I’m still interested in learning new things, some on a whim and others by necessity. I rented a violin with an instruction book. I’ve always wanted to learn to play. It was winter in Rochester, and I’m not a TV watcher. I’ve progressed through the “how to hold the bow” section to use the bow. It’s not as screechy as I feared, and I can play a couple of very simple lyrics. But now the weather’s improved. Perhaps I’ll take lessons when the weather deteriorates. I did learn that holding that instrument under my chin is way more difficult than it looks.

I learned last week that a little button underneath makes it work again when your garbage disposal stops working. My plumber says it’s a “reset button.”  He also advised it would be harder to get down under the disposal to push it than to get things working again. He was right.   He also told me how to stop the toilet from making those intermittent gurgling sounds, so I might learn how to fix a toilet. Or maybe not. I might learn how to sleep through the gurgling.

My past life experience isn’t particularly illuminating, either. Almost everything that occurred was happenstance:

  • In 1964, I ended up in Algeria when we didn’t have diplomatic relations with them…totally unplanned. I was the only one who spoke French.  
  • At age 49, thinking I might get bored, I went to law school. I lucked into my dream job, prosecuting abuse and neglect cases in family court. The pay was so low that no one else wanted the job.
  • In 2019, I wrote a letter complaining about my crooked congressman. Honest, even I have trouble believing this one…it was just a letter! And he went to prison! And the Australian Broadcasting Company came to my house to do a documentary on the whole thing.  

So, when I say I don’t know what my counting-back years will look like, I mean it. I suspect more puttering, learning who-knows-what, and happening into incredible experiences I didn’t plan.

That question is much easier to answer when I ask what I have to live for … well—just being. Family and friends, puppy snuggles, nature, laughing, music, and dancing (always dancing).