Aging gracefully?

I liked old people even before I became one. Younger friends say hush, you’re not old.  Well I’m certainly older than I was, and I’m not that upset about it anymore.

Becoming a grandmother (”Hammy” to our toddler, Caedan Ray) isn’t what made me realize I’m aging. It started when my last parent passed. That’s when I first heard a whisper about my own mortality, a reminder that I haven’t been able to ignore.  Every day I think or say to myself – better get moving.

Occasionally I forget, and when I wake up and parts of me don’t work as well as they used to, (knees, I’m talking to you) at first I’m ticked off, but by the end of the day, I ask myself, what did you expect? Things aren’t brand new anymore.

I learned nothing from my upbringing about aging gracefully. My mother’s only advice about the passing years was to encourage the use of more moisturizer so boys will like you. She considered all men boyfriends and in her teens she married a man who, through some combination of mercy and grace, turned into a grownup husband who behaved like her sweetheart all the days of their lives. Daddy raised his wife along with us kids, and she clung tenaciously to the role of teenager, even in the face of some gritty realities.

As a southern preacher, he didn’t consider old a condition that needed fixing.  He believed in keeping one’s old people at home alongside the halt and the lame and the merely odd. Most houses in my childhood had a back bedroom occupied by someone who fit at least one of those categories. Our California Gramma, the one we spent the most time with, smoked and drank and danced and cussed and sang and bet the horses ’til the end. There wasn’t any talk of age at her house either. And Paw Paw, the southern grandparent who lived into his 90’s, didn’t pass along that gene to his son, because Daddy left us way too soon.

If we’re lucky, we’ll all keep getting older. When I got my first mailer from AARP, I jumped right into their arms. It felt like a kind of freedom. That was probably the year I began telling people my real age, even before they asked. There I was coasting along in the vague category of “somewhere past her mid-forties” and as long as my grown daughter, Cathleen, maintained her looks (and she does) then nobody knew for sure how old I was. Then came that AARP card and full disclosure set in.

AARP will catch up with my buddy across the page soon enough. I’m a few years ahead of him and I’ll be waiting right here to vouch for all the services AARP has to offer, the interesting publications and the discounts. I’m seriously grateful for the research they do and their fights to help our aging population learn how to make all of this work out as well as it possibly can.

I asked my mother once, on a particularly significant birthday, did she feel any different? She said what we’ve all heard a million times, that she still felt 18 inside. I’ve had several significant birthdays of my own since I asked her that, and now I know what she meant. On the inside, it doesn’t feel much different. And she was also right about the moisturizer. Much more of it is required. I don’t know if the boys like me any better, but I’m certain that Avon does. 

Ó By Anita Garner