Two weeks ago, I turned 60. It seems odd to be this old since, as a child, I only ever imagined what it would be like to be 50 at the turn of the century. I never gave much thought to what happens after 50.
I thought I would feel old. I do, but I believe it has more to do with my illness than my age. All around me, I see 60 year olds who are still very physically active. Admittedly, they work hard, but they do not have the muscle stiffness and weaving stride that I’m coping with.
I do see many people my age scaling back at work. Especially at businesses where they respect older people for the contribution they are able to make and find a place for them, even if they are no longer able to perform at the pace they once were.
So, getting old is a little different than what I had imagined, but mostly because of the challenges that come with ME, not so much the actual chronological age, for me.
The best part is being able to slow down. Not feeling like I have to get everything done that need to be done. The worst part is that my brain wants to do more, but my body just gives out before my brain is done imagining what would be fun! For instance, I wanted to take my granddaughters swimming several days when they visited a few weeks ago; but I knew the sun and heat would do me in, and that I must conserve my energy so that I could last through the trip to take them home.
So, I guess you could say my life is “smaller” than I ever imagined it would be at this age. I imagined being able to be more active in my church. I had hoped to pursue training as a lay leader, and perhaps join the quilt group. Now, I’m lucky if I can get through my errands when I spend the day in Ames. Days spent at home are most satisfactory because then I am able to rest when I need to.
Along with the limitations of age, however, has come a peace about the past. My life has had its ups and downs: divorce, child custody battle, unemployment, foreclosure, moving, returning to college, and death of a dear grandchild. I believe I have come to grips with each of these “demons” and have finally been able to quiet the emotions that used to bubble up when I thought of them.
Probably most significantly of all, I am at peace with my family. My family of origin wasn’t perfect, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need it to be perfect. No parent is perfect, but I believe mine did the best they could for the situation and knowledge present at the time.
I also know that I have not been the best of parents. I know this because I see the way my children interact with my grandchildren. They are more patient, more attentive, more involved with the children than I ever was with them. Whether this change is because they wanted to do better than I did, or because society is doing a better job of teaching the art of parenting, I don’t care. I’m just happy that my grandchildren can expect to live better lives than their parents and grandparents lived.
And that’s all we can hope for, isn’t it?