[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers.
Alexandra Grabbe, who blogs at Wellfleet Chezsven and By Bea’s Bedside, is here today with a story titled At 60, The Time if Now. Please make her welcome with lots of comments and visit her blogs too.]
Over the past few decades, the subject of aging never crossed my mind. I eagerly awaited 20, felt exhilarated by 30. Friends joined me to celebrate 40 with champagne and festivities. 50 ushered in the sobering thought that half a century had passed since birth, and this realization gave pause. Still, life was rushing along and I went with the flow. Then came the big 6-0.
Two major events have taken place over the past year, both milestones that made me reflect on age in a new way. On April 7th, I turned 60, and on November 29th, my mother passed away. Life does end. This may seem obvious, but our be-young-forever culture allows us to bask in the illusion that aging is a mere footnote in the book of life.
My college roommate recently commented that she is taken aback when she looks in the mirror and sees this little old lady peering back at her. I checked my mirror and – sure enough – my hair is starting to turn white. My face wears its worry lines like medals.
Can this person really be me? Outward appearance may change, but who we are – our essence – remains the same. That strangers do not react to us in the same way is disconcerting, to say the least.
Curiously enough, Mom could never wrap her mind around the idea of reaching 96. “How old am I?” she would ask over and over. My response was met with incredulity: “How did I get to be that old?” In her mind, she remained Jack Benny’s proverbial 39, full of energy and promise, not bedridden and cared for by hospice.
Denial may not work for her daughter, however. My 60th birthday brought the realization that if there is anything I have not accomplished, the time to start doing it is now.
Why, you say? I have noticed the older body does not heal as easily, and daily aches and pains have made me lower expectations of physical abilities. My Swedish husband is about to turn 70. Together we are learning to marshal our energies as we attempt to wow Cape Cod tourists with Wellfleet’s first green bed & breakfast in order to pay a ridiculous $1250/month for health insurance, $1000 more than it cost when we moved here from Europe 10 years ago.
I used to be able to go all day and part of the night. After a bout with Lyme Disease, I’m grateful if I can go at all.
I am a relatively recent reader of Timegoesby, delighted that Ronni has undertaken her review of aging, drawing attention to ageism and age discrimination. How wonderful that someone dares to focus on the elder reality, encountered by more and more boomers every day: being 60 does not mean decrepitude. Still, in my opinion, 60 is not the new 30. Projects need to simmer, not cook at a brisk boil.
Retirement can bring the leisure to harness one’s energies in a different direction. Take up a cause, volunteer at a local charity.
Here in Boston, long-time anchor and television pioneer Natalie Jacobson just quit her job to move on to her Next Big Thing, helping boomers figure out what their Next Big Thing will be. (The start of the 63-year-old’s online “multi-media business” did not seem to coincide with departure, so perhaps she is resting up in between?)
My next big thing is the revision of a novel I wrote at 40. What’s yours?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson is back with a college story about the gods titled Lightning.]