Tuesday, May 18, 2010
By the Time I'm Your Age...
What is age?
Oh, I know it’s a number, but must we get hung up on that? I’m reminded of my chronological age often enough. Every time I fill out paperwork, I’m asked for my date of birth. Every time I take a survey, I have to tell what ‘age group’ I fall under. And every time September 20th rolls around, I have to add another candle to my cake. In recent years, I’ve needed to get a ‘burn permit’ on that date, as well.
I know how old I am. What I want to know is how to tell what my age is on the INSIDE. See, in my mind and spirit, I still feel like an eighteen year old. I still like to giggle and act silly. I still find wonder in simple things. I still want to make my parents proud of me, even while raising children of my own. Once in awhile, I even think I’m young enough to be attractive to the opposite sex.
But then, I get a reality check. I walk by a mirror, for example. In masochistic fashion, I sometimes pause and take a gander. The proof is in the reflection… gray hairs, small wrinkles, medium wrinkles, even one or two good-sized ones. Occasionally, I am reminded of my advancing years by my own body’s rebellion to tasks or movements which–once upon a time–wouldn’t have been worth remarking on. But now, if I spend an hour or two piling firewood, I’m lame for hours. When I rake the lawn or weed the garden, my back gives out, forcing me to walk like a hunchback for several days afterwards. I can get a stiff neck by sneezing. I can get stiff muscles by doing nothing more than sitting still for a half an hour. My outer shell and my physical body tell me that I am growing old.
And then, there are other peripheral reminders. I was chatting with a man the other day; laughing, sharing interests, talking peer to peer. That’s how I felt, anyway. Until the fellow caught me off guard with this statement: “By the time I’m your age…”
My head snapped around.
“Why, you little…!”
All of a sudden, I was reminded that this man is only five years older than my son Guy. All of a sudden, I realized that when you are thirty-two, a forty-six-year-old seems part of another age group. Another generation. I felt old. By the time he is my age, I will be sixty.
A piece of furniture over fifty years old is considered an antique.
This wonderful young fellow (whom I reflexively called a naughty name...sorry, sweetheart) meant nothing disparaging by his remark. He’s NOT my age, and by the time he IS, we will have colonized Mars. I need to accept reality. To him, I’m fast approaching my dotage.
On the opposite side of the coin, I was made to feel youthful and spritely by a friend who gave me these words. “I’ll leave that work to you young kids, who still have energy and spunk.” Well, everything is relative. Comparatively speaking, my spunk level is pretty low. But to this seventy year old gentleman, I’m a kid. And I can live with that.
And so, I see-saw. One minute I feel like a girl…funny, vivacious, full of spirit and life. The next, an old crone covered in cobwebs and camphor and sporting Depends.
Age is state of mind as much as it is a number. The trick is to remind myself that every time a youngster views me as an ancient one, there is an older person looking at my comparative youth with longing. It’s best if I learn to embrace my maturity, yet feel free to occasionally act a little bit immature. There are benefits to being older, just as being a kid has its perks. And once in a while, even an old gal like me gets a nice surprise.
In the tire store the other day, the man behind the counter not only handed me a card with his phone number scribbled on the back, but he knocked eighty bucks off the total cost of my four tires. The phone number was useless, as I’m a happily married woman. But the number on my invoice was very welcome. After all, I’m approaching retirement age, and every little bit of savings helps.
I’ve got to admit… getting hit on at my age made me feel good. It made me feel YOUNG. And the guy who showed the interest? He wasn’t an old man, by any means. He was just a young pup of fifty-five or so.
Bottom photo is author Karen Bessey Pease at 16 years old.
Top photo is Author Karen Bessey Pease (note the same sexy specs) as she sees herself in 54 years. Lord willing and the creek don't rise...