Several quotes sing in my psyche—not lines from great lit or epic poetry—but from my adult children. They do not soft pedal the icky side of aging; they tell it like it is. If the truth sometimes hurts, it also sticks.
“How does this look?” I ask my daughter; “Do these pants make me look fat?”
“It doesn’t matter, Mother,” she says with a shrug; “no one’s looking at you!”
When I chronicle my cantankerous confrontations with the phone company,” she admonishes, “Too much time on your hands, Mother!” and this truth highlights my slide from busy career to daily doldrums even though I consciously chose the mixed blessings of retirement. I had eagerly fantasized a giant leap into new and creative endeavors, a balanced blend of Julia Child and Jane Austen. I definitely plan to start….baking, novel writing and with an eye to the world stage… very soon.
My boys point out the obvious from a different angle. “Don’t run for the phone, Mom, most old peoples’ accidents happen at home.” And son #2 endlessly asks if I’ve locked the gate, turned off the water, put out the garbage….well, yes, it’s thoughtful and helpful and kind, but it’s almost a parody of how I used to hound them!
So it’s important to carve what used to be the clichés of aging into the cement of true wisdom: You’re as young as you feel; old age begins five years older than your current age; keep moving; less (makeup, weight, jewelry), is more; growing old isn’t for sissies; keep moving; the best is yet to be; we’re getting better never older and even if it hurts, keep moving! These are indeed the words we need to live by.
Besides crosswords, aerobics, friends and family, from gardening to volunteering and other brain/body exercises to keep us old fuds from mental creaks and physical aches, I find that there’s a “must do” that’s a secret sauce for longevity—never, ever forget to count your blessings. This list can also keep moving, so it’s important to review and check regularly. Start humming that old jive song that exhorted us to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive and eliminate the negative—a long ago jazzy lyric and it’s more modern mantra: attitude is everything!
Except, all these good intentions, like my planned apple pie, are easily postponed. “Where does the time go?” I wonder; “Must be the darn phone,” I alibi. Stopping the proverbial merry-go-round to quietly tot up all the truly good stuff needs to head our To-Do list in bold type. Like that morning blood pressure pill, it works best when done early.
That’s my wake-up call to a new day after I slide out of bed, shuffle to the coffee pot, then settle in my chair across from our big windows just as the sun edges over the fence and fans across our slice of sky. My good-life gratefulness—family, bank balance, health—links to a positive litany of—old friends, new ones, my doctors who promise not to retire. I mentally meander towards those long gone and give a nod of appreciation for their place in my heart. Some mornings my inner eye scans past lucky breaks or scrubs lame regrets. I remember to end with the secular prayer of “yesterday’s gone, tomorrow’s not here, let me live in the promise of a happy today.
Finally, I’ll breathe deeply and radiate a bright aura toward my children. I know that along with their parental-type nagging, they always prove their caring connection after a call or visit. “Be careful out there, Mom, you know we love you.” Age has its rewards, after all.