Monday, October 26, 2009

Aging is Going to Be the Death of Me

September 2009

Aging is going to be the death of me—literally, I hope. At least I think I hope. Actually, maybe it would be a lot easier to just go down in a plane or get a quick life-taking disease. Watching my Mom age makes me see the hardness of it. But that’s another story.

I don’t think of myself as old. I kind of think of myself as thirty-five, which I say is the perfect age. Forty isn’t a very good sounding age because the word “forty” isn’t very attractive. Maybe I think that way because my dad would always comment on an unappealing person as “fat, forty and 4F”. I still don’t know what that means. Do you? Anyway, even though I am now twenty years past forty, I think of myself as young. At least until I look in the mirror, of course. But I try not to do that too often.

Several incidences have brought me to the conclusion that I might perceive myself as young but others certainly don’t. Here are just two of them:

I had an obligatory meeting to go to that I knew was also going to be attended by an old high school friend. I hadn’t seen him for a very long time, but he had been an especially good-looking guy in high school and I somehow expected him to look the same. I even dressed particularly youth-fully so that he would definitely have to say, “Wow, Elizabeth, you haven’t changed a bit.”

Well he didn’t look the same. At all. He had a pot belly, was quite bald and wore suspenders—suspenders! I was shocked and disappointed.

And what’s more, he did not say, “Wow, Elizabeth, you haven’t changed a bit.” After contemplating for awhile, I realized he didn’t say it because it would have been a big fat lie. He was probably just as surprised at my changes as I had been at his.

On another occasion, I was in Wal-Mart waiting in line to have some fabric cut. (What I possibly could have been sewing, I can’t imagine right now.) Standing in line, I had time to analyze the clerk who was cutting everyone’s fabric and this was my thought process:

“Boy, they really get old people to work in here. That lady’s hands seem translucent and feeble and her hair is so thin. She’s a little old woman.”

After some closer observations, I realized with absolute horror that this woman had graduated from Westwood High School with me. She was my age! I was stunned!

By the time it was my turn to be waited on I was in a stammering mode. “Hi,” I managed. “I remember you from high school.”

“Yes” she said. “And I remember you, too.” She seemed a little cool. Maybe she had read my thoughts. I got very self-conscious.

“I bet you get to see a lot of people from the past in here,” I ventured.

“I do,” she said. “And they all look so old!”

I had been thinking how old she looked and she almost outright said that I looked old, too. The nerve!

Old age is like a disease that you never think you’ll catch. You’re so surprised when you turn fifty or sixty or seventy and everyone else seems surprised, too. No one is as surprised as I am to be sixty years old. How did that happen? Wasn’t I vaccinated against aging? The years just seemed to tumble over each other racing to get me to this age. I have to stop and consciously remember that I have already had my turn at youth. I had a very wonderful childhood. My twenties were pleasant. My thirties were delightful. My forties, although I have already disparaged the sound of “forty”, were maybe some of the best years because they came with new vision and new attitudes. My fifties rushed by with lots of experiences and now here I am at sixty and it seems like before I can count as high, seventy will be here.

I finally have to concede that I am no longer young. I have caught the disease and it’s my turn to be this age. My fingers have been pried from youth and I will try to accept it with graciousness and dignity. I will try not to give dirty looks to the checker at Fry’s when she gives me the senior discount without even bothering to ask me if I could possibly be old enough to qualify for it. I will try not to whack my grand kids when they say I’m starting to look like Grandma Great or my kids when they say, “Oh, Mom, you’re so cute when you ride your bike.” I will acknowledge the fact that my face now needs a lot more concealer than makeup base and that when the welcomer at Sam’s calls me “young lady” he really doesn’t mean it. In fact, he means the opposite.

I may not be young but I am definitely not old. Not yet. Actually, if the long lives of my close relatives are any indication, I think I'm only about two-thirds through this complicated yet fascinating life. Think of that--thirty more years! Great things can be accomplished in thirty years so I can't let aging get in my way. And I absolutely refuse to think of myself as "old" for thirty whole potential-filled years.

Awwwww, the world is mine--still!


Tami Allred said...

WEll Said. You write beautifully.
That story of you in the store is too funny.

The Wiltbanks said...

How did you even manage to get your arthritic fingers to write such eloquent prose? No matter the age, I'm glad you're still around. Thanks for the example. I will try and age as gracefully -- but I reserve the right to use Botox!