‘You’re Only as Old as You Feel’
(And Other Lies About Aging)
Recently while my husband and I were grocery shopping with our young grandson we were asked if were his great-grandparents. Once I recovered from my shock and managed to restrain myself from resorting to physical violence, I realized we actually are old enough to be great grandparents! Although I’m mostly going to blame my husband’s gray hair for provoking the comment, we’re in our early 60s so we could easily have great-grandchildren, but here we are at the beginning of our grandparenting journey!
I know my husband would agree: being grandparents is the best perk of getting older!
This encounter also made me think about how we view ourselves. Does anyone ever think they’re old, or is 20 years older than our current age always what we consider old? Despite Medicare and Social Security looming closer every day, my husband and I tend to stay in denial in regards to our senior status. Lately I’ve been thinking about what surprises me about aging. Here are some of the things I didn’t expect from getting older:
- I am shocked pimples and wrinkles can co-exist; how is that even fair?
- Are restaurants getting dimmer and menu print getting smaller? I had 20/20 vision until I hit forty, what happened?! And why is it that no matter how many cheap pairs of reading glasses I buy I am constantly searching for a pair?
- I’ve achieved the super power of invisibility! The jury is still out on how I feel about this one. In some ways it’s a relief to not get hit on and flirted with in public, but then there’s this tiny sliver of my ego that pathetically kind of misses it.
- I promised myself I would never discuss health ailments, but it’s become a main topic with friends. I was recently the guilty one bringing it up at dinner. Our conversations used to be about boys in our teens, classes and careers in our twenties, kids in our thirties and forties and now in our sixties we’re talking about grandkids and health issues.
- What is this crazy insomnia that seems to be a common issue with older women?! No matter how much I exercise, leave electronics out of the bedroom and avoid caffeine, I am up in the middle of the night roaming the house or lying in bed tossing and turning.
- It’s astounding how much joy not setting the alarm clock can bring; retirement is underrated! I’m a natural early riser, but the mere fact I don’t have to be brings a profound sense of relief.
- I can’t believe how much I still miss my parents. Intellectually we know our parents will die in our lifetime, but somehow my brain didn’t get the message to my heart. No matter how old I am or how long they’ve been gone, I still miss my mom and dad. I also grieve for my friends’ parents who were such an integral part of my childhood. With each one that passes I mourn the end of an era.
- It’s true what they say, we always are the same age on the inside. Although feeling forever young is great, it leads to a shock every time I catch a glimpse of my grandmother staring back at me in the mirror. My interior and exterior are in sharp discord! What’s even more disturbing is that my kids are now about the age I still feel; how can that be possible?!
- Long-time friends are the best for many reasons; they see us through blurry glasses (or maybe it’s the cataracts) as if we were still 18, thin and unblemished. Forever friends also remember all the funny stories, shared adventures and maybe a few freeze frames of our glory days. Which reminds me of something I read on the back of a T-shirt in the crowd at the last Olympic trials: “The older we get, the better we were.” Sing it, Bruce Springsteen!
- The empty nest is not synonymous with a sad house. I loved raising my children, but I also love rediscovering there is a bottom of the laundry basket, a bowl of cereal for dinner is a satisfying meal and strangely enough, I don’t find myself longing for science fairs or late-night runs for poster boards. I earned this time to be a bit selfish.
- Hair, I never dreamed hair would become such a time-consuming concern in the later years. Men are worried about not having enough on their heads and trying to tame the wild, mad scientist eyebrows and weird random hairs poking out of their ears. Women are often battling the gray hair and wondering why the errant hairs that appear on their chins are still coal black.
- The biggest and best surprise is the love discovered when you have grandchildren. It’s an indescribable love like no other; so deep and pure it must be experienced. My lame attempt at explaining it is food related, of course. Becoming a grandparent is like discovering the last chunk of brownie in your pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Just when you thought the best was gone you discover the absolute most delicious part was saved for last!
I think what has surprised me most about aging is how fast life has passed. It’s a cliché old people say, but now I’m finding it to be completely true (which must be proof I’m old). My dad warned me that once you reach your 90s the years fly by. How lucky to live long enough to be able to make that statement!! I find myself wondering where did the years go and how many do I have left? Rhetorical questions with no answers, but I do know I want to make the absolute best use of every bit of time left. What has surprised you the most about getting older?
In my mind I will always be about 36, the age I was in this picture. In my mind I will always have dark hair that doesn’t come out of a box.
Some of my favorite quotes about aging-
“We are always the same age inside.” – Gertrude Stein
“Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older.” – Louise Hay
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” – Satchel Paige
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
“Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” – Walt Disney
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” – Unknown