Guest Blogger 2007: Mick Brady
Guest Blogger 2007: Ellen Lee

Guest Blogger 2007: Alexandra Grabbe

[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.]

Comments

Good question!!!!!! It's terrible to be 60 and not sure what you want to be when you grow up. lol

Welcome, and thanks for writing today. My next big thing will be gearing up to go to work. I work a part time, temporary, hourly job, but sometimes at 65 it's hard to get up and going. Hope the B&B goes well.

I don't know if I've ever had a Next Big Thing -- more like a lot of Medium-sized Next Things.

I believe that as long as you think in terms of "next", you're in good shape. Even if next is making plans to meet friends for lunch.

Thanks for writing for us today, Alexandra. I agree with ell - for many of us, our 'next big thing' may not be so big. And as long as it's something we want to do, it doesn't matter if it's big or small.

No matter how old you are, for life to be worth living, you have to have a purpose - a reason to get out of bed each day. That purpose may change with our health and physical abilities.

And I certainly agree with your mother - How DID I get to be this old?!

As I have said here many times, "60 is not old." Wait until you get to be in your 80's. That's getting up there.

I like what Ell said about the next big thing - getting together with friends for lunch. That can get to be a big thing. -someone's back kicks up, knees are hurting or an unexpected trip to the emergency room and we have to cancel lunch.

So far we have had to cancel lunch twice, maybe next time we'll all be able to make it!! ;-)

In our writing community blog we talk about lineage and the way established writers pass on lineage to younger writers, thus keeping writing alive. When I read your post, I thought, Ah, she is passing on her knowledge in the same "lineage" sort of way.

I'm 46. If my mother lives to be 96, I will be in my early 60s. I never contemplated until I read this post that I might have a mother when I am 60. Much would depend on her health, but if she arrived at that age with most intact, I would love nothing more than to have a living mother until I am 60.

I just want to express gratitude for passing on your knowledge. I learned from both you and the commenters. There is beauty in having a next big thing, and there is beauty in having a few little things. The zen of growing old.

My next big thing is to continue being totally amazed at Georjina at 50. I've never considered age as something to think about or avoid at all costs. For me, it's something to be lived to the fullest because there has always been unexpected changes.

My next big thing is to take that trek around the globe, stopping and seeing whatever the journey provides and just go wherever this journey is taking me.

Guess when I get to 80, I'll be ready to settle down somewhere but for now, tally ho!

I can identify with Mildred because I am 82 and I agree with her that 60 is not old.

I always have a project in progress because a goal keeps me challenged. Being challenged gives me a reason for going on. I completed a biography of my family, then I scanned every photo I had and put them on disks for my children. Now I am writing a more personal story of my life. Maybe a great-great-grandchild will want to wade through it someday. If not, it has given me an incentive to renew old experiences and remember old friends. It has been therapeutic. Now what will be my next big thing?

Darlene your last big thing is mine, and I am creating a way for others to share that for others too. I am gathering all stories, photos, family tree information and even digital voice files and uploading them to InRepose.

My own grandmother turns 100 on Friday. I am hoping she will contribute as well!

I too will be 60 in a few weeks. Today is both of my son's birthday, so I wonder how THEY go to be this old and how I got to be this age. Well, it was one day at a time and as my mother used to say, growing older is better than the alternative. My next big thing is to retire from working as a nurse who cares for sick newborns. Can't wait!!!

I think you have the right idea about how important stimulation with new ideas and activities is at all ages throughout our life. Sometimes we dabble in what we think are little things and they turn into our next new big thing. I think what's important is to focus on what really interests us and gives us pleasure. I've tried to do that all my life, but as we get older that becomes even more important.

Yes! I agree with everyone who says we need to keep ourselves challenged and learning and growing. I'm 67 years old and have recently started a website and two blogs. I also make weekly slide shows of the animals at the local shelter for our local public access TV station. It keeps me trying new things. My basic philosophy is "Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens, keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others."

And on bad days? "Do the best you can with what you've got left."

Hurrah! Lovely post, Alexandra, and great comments. Curiosity and learning are the biggies for me. I figure that those two will help me over the humps of the vicissitudes of aging.

The next big thing: I love to travel, and lived in Sydney for 2 years. When my marriage broke up, I had no money to globe-trot, and I missed it terribly. My daughter and I have instituted a new tradition of taking a trip abroad together on our 0 and 5 birthdays. The first was 60/30 to Amsterdam. We're planning on Prague for our 65/35. This gives me something precious to look forward to, for as long as I can ambulate. I need that kind of hope to deal with the not so pleasant work situation, living alone, et al as I get older.

Joared,

"Stay curious and open to Life" is my mantra. There is so much to see and do and be. My 86 year old girl friend wants to go to the moon. (I'm 66) Not my thing, but isn't that marvelous?? She's on a walker or in a wheelchair most of the time but that doesn't stop her from dreaming.

Going to the moon sounds like a plan; one that could be achieved without a walker or a wheelchair if your friend can get into the spaceship -- never too old to dream.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)