Mar 18, 2013

On Getting Old(er)

Is anyone out there getting older?  My husband and I seem to be. We celebrated his sixtieth birthday this month and mine is rounding the corner in a couple of months. I'm wondering how we got to this point.  Sixty? Isn't that an age other people are?  You know: old people. People with canes and walkers and oxygen tanks, people wearing Depends and being followed by aides who mash their food into gummable textures. There may be tucking of bibs under chins and shouting of questions into ears. 

Now my husband and I seem to be loping into our seventh decade.  Our children kindly tell us that do not fit their image of sixty.  Good to hear. Very good to hear.  I don't want to fit anyone's image of sixty.  What I want is to be my image of someone else at twenty, say a twenty-year-old Olympic athlete. My self-image back in my twenties was pretty depressing; I thought I was pasty white with unruly hair and a bumpy body. 

There's no use complaining. The alternative to aging is…death. My mother, who had many ailments worthy of complaint, used to say to younger me, "Never get old, honey, never get old." To which my mouth would flop open and closed for a few moments of fluster before I asserted that getting old was sort of the point, wasn't it? At least it was a personal goal of mine.  I wanted to live for a really long time, which as far as I'd heard involved aging. 

Lately I've seen billboards that state: The First Person to Reach 150 is Alive Today. If true, that's pretty amazing. I've noticed anecdotally that people are living longer and longer.  Lots of people are staying sharp mentally and living independently until a very ripe age; ninety and beyond. That's good news for the rest of us. Just look to Betty White for an example.

So why are things starting to fall apart on my body already?  My memory is worthless: I think it needs a tune up or a new transmission or something.  My eyes have taken a downward slide from requiring readers to bifocals to trifocals.  My hearing is definitely not what it used to be and my husband suggests a hearing test.  I seem to have trouble with the higher registers, like the cats’ whines, the door bell, and other things that require attention.

Maybe the point is to get older but never get old. Keep walking, exercising, reading, caring, trying new things, gaining new skills, treat every day as though it’s the midpoint with as much ahead as behind.  This aging shit is scary: I’ll take all the Hallmark card sentiments I can get, even if I have to compose and send them myself.