Yesterday my mother turned 87.
I tried to talk to her the night before but she was busy going over Spanish questions with my niece who lives with her, in preparation for mid-term exams (interesting in itself as to my knowledge my mother doesn't speak any Spanish at all). And that was interrupted by call from another grandchild who needed help with an essay.
My mom said that by the end of the day she was pretty sure she could write at least three high school exams.
The day of her birthday she got up and drove my niece to school. Then she swung by the church and did whatever you do when you are on the altar guild. She then spent to rest of the day talking to other grandchildren and friends. When I tried to call her several times throughout the day she was out. God knows where and undoubtedly not using her walker like she is supposed to.
When I did reach her she told me she has a lot to be grateful for. Everyone has turned out, except for one of two who were almost there but she was sure would be just fine (I am smart enough not to ask who, in case one of them is me).
It is very helpful to have a parent who shows you how to age.
My mother once described being old as sitting in the waiting room waiting for your flight to be called. If that's making her sad she doesn't show it. She says she's not dying until my niece graduates from high school anyway and so that's that.
She never starts a sentence with "at my age" and more or less proceeds as if she is about 40.
She has dealt with aging by deciding to ignore it, despite a series of major health crises, and she just treats those as times out.
My mother does't like to be bored. She has a great mind. As we always say even when it's bad she still finds it interesting.
We are not going to get her to slow down or sit down. I think are all coming to terms with the fact she is going to keel over at some point on her way to a kid's swim meet or some other activity that involves someone else.
I have been thinking about this lately as it has suddenly occurred to my husband that 60 is in fact not the new 30. His psoriatic arthritis is catching up a bit and we have more or less accepted that he is going to have both hips and maybe a knee replaced at some point. And last week he and his boss volunteered to go speak to some kids at a high school career day and HR sent someone who was half their age instead.
And like many men he is considering the reality that his career is going to take new directions, involving part-time work even, rather than being the go-to guy. He has had his turn being that. This is just starting to sink in.
He will be fine of course once this all settles into his mind and he retools - something he is really good at.
I am not sure women, or women like us, go through this the same way. I personally am already behind about 50 years in my projects and have no fears about what I am going to do when I retire.
But the thought of what to do when you hit the day when you realize there is actually a waiting room, or you see your age in someone else's eyes, is an interesting one.
I have thought this over at various points usually around 3:00 a.m. and this is what I have figured out.
Best thing to do is just forget the numbers.
Just forget them. Put them right out of your mind. Listen I teach 20 year olds who are already older than I am.
You aren't as old as you feel, you are as old as you do.
Keep doing, or in my case, keep sewing.
That's quite the back log I have stored up.
Off I go.