October 28, 2012
This morning I awoke and found myself one year older—63—it sounds so eerie to me! It’s kind of a strange birthday, too, because I’m home alone. Ben’s spending time with his Mama who’s not doing well, all the kids are scattered about with their lives, the three grandkids in college are probably still sleeping after a big Saturday night and Halloween parties, and family and friends are up and about getting their Sunday morning, October 28th going. The weather’s changed to chilly here in the South, which reminds me of birthdays growing up in those majestic West Virginia mountains in Southern Appalachia.
I always get excited about my birthday, which I now celebrate for the entire month of October—and when I say ‘celebrate’ I mean I indulge myself in little things throughout the month like—coffee weekly, sometimes several times, from DD, an extra pedicure and manicure, buying magazines at the checkout, trying new wines from World Market, and, yes, picking up a new glittery bobby pin for my hair among other things.
So, as I was lying in bed with just my kitty, Callie, I thought ‘what am I supposed to feel like being 63?’ I mean am I supposed to feel something that tells me I’m ‘old’ or ‘older’? Because if that’s the case, it ain’t happening. I did a mental scan of my body—no aches, no pains, well, maybe a nudge in my lower back, but that can be stretched out, no grey hair thanks to L’Oreal and a great stylist, 20/20 vision thanks to a great ophthalmologist and the miracle of cataract surgery and implants, not many ‘age’ spots thanks to wearing sun block for the past 40 years and limiting my time in the sun, not that many face wrinkles thanks to among other things like good eating not ever smoking, stopping the sunbathing, no sunbaking, in my mid 20s, the wonder of new laser treatments among other things, a healthy and pretty much toned body thanks to moderation in eating, staying active whether it’s climbing steps rather than an elevator or escalator, parking a distance from the entrance to a place, so I can get some extra steps in, riding my bike, hiking, and just incidental life exercise like cleaning my house, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, sweeping, carrying in groceries…you know what I mean…it adds up daily, have all my original teeth, well, minus the front one I lost in 5th grade playing chase at recess and running into a chain link fence as I was laughing, thanks to flossing and my Sonic toothbrush, good dental care, and good eats.
Then I thought, yep that marketing ploy about age and 63 being the new 43 (just subtract 20 from whatever age you are, and that’s the selling point), but then I paused and said to myself, no, can it be the new 33? Because I truly feel no different in my mind, soul, spirit and body than I did in my 30s. At this point, I got up and decided to take off my rose-colored glasses, get down to the nitty gritty and look at this 63 year old woman.
I promptly went to a full length mirror with good natural lighting coming through the windows. I stood tall, mountain pose yogi, and looked at myself. My eyes looked a little tired, maybe I needed my first cup of coffee, maybe it was from the only 4 hours of sleep, the excitement of awaiting my birthday and I couldn’t get to sleep. The first thing I noticed, my upper arms. Despite all the work with yoga and resistance training and upper body workouts, there’s evidence there of gravity taking its toll. Not really noticeable drastically, but still some creeping crepe of the skin underarms, chest and thighs coming on—yep, sagging skin, the pits is all I can say, that starts as menopause sets in. And, women everywhere at this stage of their life know what I’m talking about. Then I breathed deeply, pulled back my shoulders, elongated my spine, grabbed a pencil, backed up to the wall, made a mark. I measured. I’m 5’4 1/2 ” not 5’ 5 1/2 ” like I was 30 years ago—another sign of getting older—you start to shrink. Another pit of aging—the Benjamin Button syndrome. I felt my chin, yep, the dreaded little whiskers—every few days you pluck them out using a 15x magnifying mirror and splinter tweezers—a constant reminder of getting old. Every now and then there’s a bristly white one—would I be like the bearded woman in the circus if I didn’t pluck? Then I looked at my eyebrows—the dreaded The Sign of Hertoghe or Queen Anne’s sign—those with a unibrow in young age, be thankful, it will thin out with age. There’s no denying I said to myself—a contrast from my 30s when the eyebrows were full, dark and had a natural arc that never needed plucking. I ran my fingers through my hair, while it’s always been fine, it’s now really fine, as in not as thick fine of my 30s—does that make sense? Does to me—maybe it will to you, too, when you hit 63.
Jolting me out of this was the ringing of my cell phone and the house phone—the barrage of well wishing calls began—Matthew, Ben, Alex, Nicholas, Andrew, Jennifer, baby Nicholas, Natalie, Lynn, Kathryn and my beloved Mama Helen, Ben’s nearly 90 y/o mom who’s laying in the hospital with a broken hip and awaiting surgery, who called and sang to me ‘You Are My Sunshine’—I got tears in my eyes as she sang it to me not once or twice but three times. After hanging up, I thought to myself, my signs of aging are my badges of honor of a life well-lived, a legacy of wonderful children, grandchildren and family and friends, good and bad choices, a myriad of trying and triumphal experiences, and a seque into a new voyage for a baby boomer who’s journeying soon from the ‘middle age’ bracket to the ‘elderly’—it doesn’t’ seem quite possible—but, it’s a reality—and one thing I definitely know about this reality is that I have the power to re-write my elderly years and write my own ending of what I want to be, feel, look, do, and happen at 64 and beyond. The power lies right in me—this is the best birthday gift ever, and it comes from God. My job is to use it.