Not FAT….I’m talking about getting OLD. It’s funny how we fight it, but we’re all getting a little older every day. Regardless of what skin care or vitamins you take, you’ll still get older…if you’re lucky.
My birthday’s coming up and I always get reflective at this time. It’s a great age for that. (ssh…I’ll never tell). It’s like I’m standing on a time line where I can turn my head one way and glance back at my life’s memories and then turn my head the other way and look forward to new ones. The realist in me knows that I need to take each day as it comes and live it to the fullest, because sometimes we don’t have as many years left as we hope for. My sister-in-law, JoAnn, died at the age of 44. I’m learning (at my ripe old age) to live in the NOW, but with plans for my golden years.
I think about all the times I’ve said, “just kill me before I turn 90.” My friends and family laugh when I say this, but they usually nod and agree that getting old is tough. We all have stories about aging parents, grandparents or relatives and we hate to see them suffer, especially when they become incoherent. It’s sad to see anyone’s life end with such little dignity.
I was in this reflective mood as I was putting away our fine china, which we used for our Thanksgiving feast. It’s a lovely set which was handed down from my husband’s late grandmother, Jane. Each piece is in beautiful shape and still gleams, as if it was brand new. Obviously, it was handled with care through the years and I am honored that the set made its way into our home.
Grandma Jane was an interesting lady who told us wonderful stories about going to a speakeasy and the Great Depression. She was petite and had blue sparkly eyes that lit up when she spoke. When her husband was alive, they decided that he may die first and they sold their house and bought an assisted living condo. He didn’t want her to struggle after he died. It was perfect for them. They were able to have the freedom of living on their own, as well as the security of having someone nearby, just in case. The facility had a large cafeteria, which doubled as a meeting place and Jane liked to play cards with the other residents. Also, they were in walking distance of a 24 hour store and they could take a shuttle bus on day trips. I loved visiting them with my daughter (who was an infant at the time).
Now, they had the right idea about getting old. It’s going to happen — plan for it. Don’t be too proud to accept help when you need it and be realistic — you’ll need an alternative way of getting around. Grandma Jane died not too long after her husband did. I still think it was more of a broken heart, since they were inseparable when he was alive. It was sad to see her go since I would’ve liked my kids to get to know her. This is why I make sure my kids get to know their living grandparents.
My parents live a few thousand miles away and each time we visit, I see more signs of aging. My mom walks a lot slower and she seems to have shrunk. My dad’s memory is diminishing and each time, he tells the same story as if it was the first time. It’s sad, but I know it’s part of life and the good news is that they are still with us. We can still hug them and love them. We can still listen to old stories (and pretend we’ve never heard them). My dad loves to sit outside and breathe in the air from his trees as he listens to music on the radio. My mom’s eyes light up when she tells me about a story she wrote — she’s a very creative writer.
My kids are also getting to know my husband’s dad, who lives near us. He’s a self-described ‘dinosaur’ and a Godly man. I know that I am blessed to still have my parents and my father-in-law still around. My kids never met their grandma on my husband’s side. She died when she was only 59 years old and her death was sudden.
Instead of thinking of old age as doom and gloom, I choose to look at it as a blessing. No one knows how long they will live and each year is a blessing. I appreciate it more now, after JoAnn’s death. Now, I pray that I get old. I want to be like Grandma Jane and tell stories of my youth. I want to be like my mom and continue to write stories. I want to be like my dad, who appreciates music and soft breezes. I want to be like my father-in-law, who finds humor in getting old.
Just like the fine china, I will “handle with care” and hope that my eyes are still sparkling for the next generation. This birthday, I will be happy that I’m one year older and have an amazing family and friends to share my life with right now.