MANY RETURNS, SOME OF THEM HAPPY

It’s a milestone. I am 64. I don’t need anyone to feed me, thank God. But I do need to be needed. The Beatles were half right. But I have been ruminating, and I have reached some conclusions. Some people might call them revelations. But frankly, at my level of functioning, I think using revelation would be a bit much.

First off, I cannot believe the amount of drugstore products that I now buy and use regularly. Awful. I need Aspercreme for the tendonitis in my shoulder, Lunesta to sleep at night (which doesn’t work all that well, as I am typing this at two a.m.). I take ibuprofen for the arthritis in my thumb, and I have read a lot about Arnica, which is starting to sound interesting. Young people go to the drug store for sunscreen, condoms, and mascara.

I spend quite a bit of my time thinking about houses. Why people live in lofts, for instance. They seem so drafty. However, they are trendy. Ah. When you are 64, you don’t care about trends. You care about not getting bursitis in the shoulder that has the tendonitis already. I also think about those tiny houses that are gaining in popularity. I have of late started to think that I might want to live in one. They seem so cozy and self-contained, with everything one might need at arm’s reach. And they always seem to have down comforters in lofts with lanterns and stained glass windows. I would love that, I think. I wonder if I will ever live in a different house from the one I live in now, which has large rooms, lovely antiques, and the voices of my kids still ringing ever so slightly in the silence. Maybe my next house will be for old people with nurse aides and wheelchairs. I will fight that for as long as I can!

I spend hours thinking back. I try to remember that vacation we took with the girls in 1998. Or was it 1999? The one that we thought we would love, but Central America was just a little too foreign and full of large, very intimidating insects. But it was memorable because we swam in a pool on Christmas day with monkeys in the trees around it. I won’t have another memory like that again. And I have forgotten so many things I shouldn’t have. And they are lost forever. Maybe not—I have heard that some people with Dementia are flooded with old memories. There’s that.

I consider food. It seems to get more delicious the older I get. But my appetite is getting smaller, and I just can’t reconcile that with the fact that I weigh more than I ever have. Does exercise not work on older bodies as well? Certainly it can’t be that I can’t move around as quickly or efficiently as I used to when on a treadmill. And going up and down stairs for a half hour now just doesn’t seem to boost my metabolism the way it used to. But I guess when young, I went up and down ten more times in that same twenty minutes.

I also look at my spouse differently. Up until a few years ago, the fact that we all have “baggage” just didn’t compute. I, of course, gave myself all kinds of benefit of the doubt, because I knew exactly who to blame for all my anxiety and insecurities: my parents, of course. But somehow, walking around in the world for 60 years focusing on my own baggage made me oblivious to all those heavy suitcases that everyone else carried on their shoulders. And suddenly, I began to sympathize with the mountain of luggage my husband has been toting around. So now the expression “benefit of the doubt” is facing outward, beaming out at my family, instead of festering around inside my own ego. It has taken me 60-some years to begin to cut other people a break.

I think of housework. Things that I sluffed off for years as wastes of time or just not worth my effort are now tasks I enjoy for the simple act of doing them. Cleaning the kitchen after meals is gratifying, because after doing so, I can look around and think, “This beautiful room is my dream kitchen. I always wanted it, and look, it happened. I got this beautiful room in this beautiful house.” So I lean back against the countertop and look around, marveling in this place that I almost never noticed all the years I was going to work, hurrying children out to get to school and games…all the times I rushed out of it with a dog or a girl scout or a deadline, always wanting to get somewhere else.

It is ironic to me, this aging business. Because I never once believed any of the platitudes about it, scorning clichés such as “golden years,” “with age comes wisdom,” and “age brings wisdom, and wisdom brings tranquility.”

Of course, there is the other saying about raging against the dying of the light. But I am not in that stage, just yet. I want to spend time in this one. Just enough time to adjust myself to the next. There will be rage. But it must come in its own time.

 

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