There is always something about the first part of every year that makes us think of our age and aging in general. My granddaughter had a birthday this month, my husband has one coming up in January and each of us knows one is coming in the New Year. The other day I was shopping and walking down the bakery goods aisle where a young father was buying cake mix, canned frosting and large birthday candles. Apparently they were for his wife because his little daughter came running with large candles of wax declaring “36.” The father reacted by saying, “Oh, I don’t think she would like that.” Then looking at me he said, “Ma’am, what do you think?”
I smiled and said, “Make it 21 and she’ll love it.” He smiled and shook his head in a positive motion as I pushed my cart away was explaining it to his daughter. An older woman heard our conversation; I might add an older woman about my age but in a wheelchair. She commented, “Why do people worry so much about age?”
She appeared to be a pleasant woman who obviously was living with health trouble of some form and perhaps in all of her troubles had forgotten what it was like to be a young mother of thirty-six years. We each identify, quite naturally, with our present age.
When I got home I got a call from a friend who was deeply depressed and the bottom line of the cause seemed to be she didn’t like getting old. In her late seventies, she was tired of feeling it, having others refer to it and suffering the results of a body worn and not particularly well cared for. I told her I felt it certainly was better than the alternative available to us all but she was in no mood to hear it and wanted to wallow a bit longer.
The following day I was awakened by a call from out of state from a good, older friend of my husbands who told me old age was “Hell.” He pronounced he was “Ready to leave the stage,” and went on to exclaim, so was his wife, who is having knee problems. He is an old friend; a retired doctor given to exaggeration so I am not worried about him jumping or swallowing poison, but it was difficult to hear. Totally immersed in his own predicament, he was shut off to hearing about anyone else. Life had changed. He is used to being in charge, being wealthy and going where he wants to go. I haven’t been any of those things for a very long time so I have had longer to adjust to the limitations of life often brought on by aging.
On my SUV, the license plate holder declares, “SCREW THE GOLDEN YEARS.” It wasn’t my idea but I know it carries merit as I choose to trudge on not with regret and self-pity but with humor. I have other elderly friends who vacation all over the world, swim with the dolphins, fly planes and generally enjoy life. For those of us boxed in by the limits of our bodies, it is more difficult but it is still just an obstacle. Obstacles can be overcome, adjusted to and sometimes, embraced.
Each of life’s cycles has its moments of glory, hell and puzzlement. If we wait long enough, answers usually come. Usefulness, love of family, creativity and pleasure will arrive. As in most stages of life, attitude is the most important of all attributes or curses, depending which direction we choose.
Infirmed, aging or confined, we are still us. We still have talents unexplored, some part of our family who loves us, small children who need our guidance and our memories and the all of the world to enjoy. Our beloved pets know not of age, nor care. Yesterday I noticed the first crimson camellia blooming on our huge bush. A camellia in December is unusual but just as beautiful. Winter frost is as dazzling and luminescent as a summer rainfall. Each season has its own pleasures. Do many of us live with pain? Certainly…so what? Has the world’s pleasures and its offerings changed?
THE BIRTHDAY BOOK
I’m not sure why they say
We’re growing up or old?
Growth usually denotes
Spring shoots and buds of gold.
As children age was in quarters and halves
We always wanted to get big.
Each birthday was expectant
Like new hair on our thingamajig.
Someplace along the line
Birthdays brought less vigor
I think it was about the time
We began to lose our figure.
When was the last time
You heard someone say,
“Oh, I’m fifty-and-a-quarter.
And can’t wait for my birthday”?
Our perspective of age
Is constantly changing
With each passing year while,
Our bodies are re-arranging.
Alterations seem to come
In places once ignored.
The price we pay for aging
Is searching to be restored.
Perhaps we can’t be prime
Or choice cut again
But we “cook” with what we’ve got,
We’ve battles left to win.
Age is not the question
It’s the attitude that counts
Grab that body and bring it on
Ignore the fear that mounts.
Of course, we all know aging can suck
But it sure beats dropping dead.
Remember being a teen wasn’t always a treat
And giving birth wasn’t exactly Club Med.
As we creak, sag and parts flop around,
Our values surely change.
We, also, see our vision
And exterior is rearranged.
We often grieve for what is gone
And will never come again;
As we forget this wondrous world
And the magic locked within.
What magic, you might ask?
Your gifts, your loves, your hope,
They’re like money in the bank
Remember! Don’t act like a dope.
My skin turns cold when others groan
And complain life’s not so hot
This is the time when life grows dear
And we evaluate what we’ve got.
The last of the summer wine,
The final bloom on the rose,
These are the times to cherish
For all life must eventually close.
This is the time most brilliant
When all can glow with pride
Using it all up, leave none behind
Make it an enjoyable, productive ride.
Sue Falkner Wood