Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Adding up the Numbers

Old age is fifteen years older than I am. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Several months ago, my husband and I were in the Atlanta airport changing terminals. When we walked onto the tram wheeling our carry-on suitcases, three very tried looking younger women sat on a bench seat, which was the only seating. They quickly rose and asked if we wanted to sit. My husband and I both said no thank you. The women sank, thankfully, back into their seats.

At the next stop, the trio exited. I then noticed a sign by their sitting area.

"Please Offer Your Seats to the Elderly and the Handicapped."

I turned to my husband and asked, “Do we looked handicapped?”

We often ride subways or buses in NYC when visiting our son or take parking shuttles or public transportation in other cities and countries. Doesn't bother us to hang onto a pole or hanging loop. We plant our legs and hold on. But in reality, although it shocked me, I know now it was our age that prompted their kindness.

Aging is a subjective issue. Yes, time goes by. People are born and people die. Lots of living in between. But the question I ask is how do we define where we are in that range?

As you can see, this blog is still entitled Midlife Roadtripper. When exactly is midlife? Midway through your childhood? Your adult years? Your career? Halfway through your rest home days? One foot in the grave/one not?

Like I said. Subjective. 

In my life, my husband and I have entered a new era. He's home all the time now. His career is over. Mine is not. I’m not even certain I’ve started one yet. (When you’re a writer, your pen never stops moving no matter what age.) Yet his retirement is an exciting time. Freedom  has arrived to choose how we spend each day. Travel time opens up. No excuses required to take a lazy day or daydream. We enjoy a slower pace.

Our children’s lives are the opposite. Career advancements, children, new homes and new friends. Changes offering movement at an exciting pace. 

My granddaughter is flush in a time of intellectual curiosity. She’s two, and her communication skills are blossoming, along with her determination to explore and learn. And to tell people what to do now that she can. She tests her parents as she seeks her limits. As she should for that is how she will discover her capabilities and strengths. 

Would seem then, that my kids are the midlifers and my husband and I are the old farts. Certainly they don't feel midlife is 32 just as we don’t feel like old farts. Yes, my knee doesn’t work like it used to and my husband's new hip gives different trouble then when it wasn't fixed. But we don’t feel old. 

On a recent trip driving Independence Pass and on to Redstone in Colorado, I remarked to my husband how so many of the people we saw were white-hairs. He said, "You're with one." Indeed I was, although not completely white yet.

Many, many years ago, while on a walk with my mother, she remarked how her age shocked her. That she didn't feel 55. That in her mind she was still 21. I’ve not forgotten that sharing of hers as through the years I’ve tried to think about what age my mind thinks. I know when I’m out walking or just out and about, I see myself in my mind as maybe, 40 or 45. It's only when I pass by a mirror that I stop in surprise. 

Who is that woman in the mirror? Scares me.

My brain tells me that I do have a timeline and best get my ducks in a row to make certain I accomplish all I can with whatever time is left. But isn't that true for any age?

My analytical, linear self is not as active as my creative self. My sensitivity gets in the way also. This makes this subject harder for if I were only a numbers person, this might be easier. When I look at the numbers, they add up.

52 years since I turned 10.
46 years since I got my driver's license.
42 years since I lived and worked on the Jersey shore for the summer.
40 years since I graduated from college and walked down the aisle.
22 years since I swam topless in the Mediterranean in Vernazza, Italy and also completed a triathlon.
If my dad were alive he’d be 96, my mom 92.
My children are 32, 30, and 26.

1956, the year of my birth was 62 years ago. Before the Internet,  cell phones, and DDT was declared dangerous. Thirteen years before men walked on the moon. Women needed their husband’s permission to get a credit card or birth control. If I'd lived in the South, my good friend Linda couldn't sit next to me at the movie theatre or use the same drinking fountain. 

Sad to say, in some respects, not so much time has passed after all. Ahem. Another essay.

I do see where the numbers are a factor. When I'm playing cars on the floor with my two-year-old granddaughter and she ups and runs off and I’m rolling over onto my knees and using the coffee table as a crutch to stand up, I know I'm not what I used to be.

I can swim in a unicorn and drink a mimosa at the same time. I can place my palms flat on the ground in front of me with unbent legs. I can walk three miles (if I have to) or swim more than half a mile (if my car drives me to the Y.) I do 50 squats every few days to keep my knee from aching and 50 calf lifts to keep my bad feet in check.

But the other day I noticed some bumps on my index finger knuckles. Little knobs. The ring that has adorned my left hand representing 40 years of an incredible relationship with my husband can only be cut off if it needs removal – that knuckle arthritically expanded through the years.

Daily, I see more moles. More chin hairs. The veins on my hands stand out more, the skin no longer soft and cushy and pure like my daughter-in-laws and granddaughter. 

These bumps on my fingers have upset me, the physicality of their appearance. For I can disguise my hair in dye and hide my eye circles with concealer, but I can’t do anything about those bumps. Or the ones that will follow.

I clearly see my ten-year-old self. That young girl finally in double digits. That girl who more often than not saw life differently than everyone else. 

In the normal life span one is given, yes, the numbers, and the AARP, and the government all say I’m a senior citizen. A senior voter. Not an ancient by any means, but according to them, old. I defy that. I'm a midlife older person. And to hell with the senior citizen label and the numbers. If given the opportunity, I will age with radiance.

There, I feel much younger now.


  1. I'm having trouble with comments showing up. If anyone else on Blogger has a suggestion, please advise.

  2. Here I am again. My comment (and one from Steve) showed up clearly the first time I came to this post, and have now disappeared. Oddly, your comment was not fully visible, though.
    This is beyond frustrating for you, I imagine.

    1. Yes, frustrating. And thank you for trying to help.

    2. The drama of trying to fix this has increased as suddenly I couldn't post on my own blog. Have cleared my cookies. Oh, the words we use these days.

  3. Well said, you are a voice for many...

  4. According to the World Health Organization, Middle Age begins at 66, and your senior years at 80. So don't sweat it, you're still young ;)

  5. You are radiant at any age. Thank you for the joy of reading your words and the wisdom tucked in amongst the outrage. (I hope you get your Blogger bugs figured out)

  6. I"ve been feeling the effects of age and this post really spoke to me. It's a weird feeling knowing a body has experienced it all, holds all the memories and potential, but also is morphing and becoming limited. You have a terrific attitude about it, though, and that makes the difference between "old people" and "people."

    1. Thanks, Green Girl. I wanna be a "people" for a long time.

  7. (Trying again with my comment. It wouldn't publish anything until I deleted cookies.)

    Ah, I'm right there with you. The only thing I can control is how I feel about ageing, and how well I do it. Most unfortunately, I have no say about how others view me and that's often unsettling. Well, sometimes. But that ring thing—one could even think it's sly symbolism from the universe!

    Now I understand why my mother resisted being put in with people her own age. "They're old—I'm not!" I will be like that, too, am already in fact, although do love my friends who happen to be in the same cohort.

    Three weeks ago I started weightlifting. Serious stuff, not 5-lb dumbbells. The jocks at the gym are super encouraging and not at all condescending but I don't want to know how they really view me. I do want to influence what I assume is their perception of older women, though. And more often than I like, I wonder if leaving my hair its natural colour is a smart move.

    Good to read you, Julie. It's always such a pleasure.

  8. I love how you measure age. Yes, the elderly cut off keeps getting older and there are benefits of aging and appreciating those good years.


Let me know what you think. Every word you write, I appreciate.


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