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Essay: Having My Cake

A friend is telling me about her father who recently moved into a nursing home.

“His cholesterol is high,” she says, “so the staff told him to stop eating cake.”

“How old is your father?” I ask.

“He just turned ninety,” she says and we both laugh.

For a while now, I’ve promised myself that if I get to a certain age, I will eat and drink anything I want. What that “certain age” is exactly is uncertain—but I’m not waiting till ninety.

My grandmother didn’t wait at all. She cooked with butter all her life and used real mayonnaise and baked chicken with the skin on—and lived to be 89. Her sister was even more daring and—unlike my tee-totaling grandmother—enjoyed a cocktail before dinner every night. She lived to be 96.

Nobody talked about cholesterol in those days or trans-fats or any other kinds of fats. They ate red meat and white bread and canned fruit—and didn’t worry about any of it.

So, I have come to believe that this absence of worry was good for their health. And if I get anywhere close to their age, I’m going to have my cake and eat it too.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.