I’m about to celebrate another birthday and as my grandmother used to say, I’m getting up there. Last month I picked out what will probably be my last kayak. An older person thinks about those things. It really isn’t so bad. Gulp, gulp. Just because compressions stockings and bran flakes are frequent entries on the shopping list doesn’t mean I still can’t enjoy life. Why worry that salesclerks now call me Ma’am and ask if I want the senior discount? So what if now, when a hotrod pulls up alongside me and the young man grabs my attention it’s because I have a low tire or he’s ticked because I’ve been driving too slow.
My advanced age represents years of wisdom. I now know that linen closets are actually meant to store manuscripts I’m still trying to perfect; that I’ll never be a size 8 so why fret over it; that having a colonoscopy is no big deal; that spending an evening in a smoke-filled bar listening to ear-pounding music can’t compare to walking my dog down a quiet, wooded trail.
That I need to ask for what I want; that time is more precious than gold; that following your dream isn’t just a cliché; that I don’t give a hoot about how Martha Stewart says I should fold a fitted sheet.
Or that I’ll probably never see Australia’s coral reef or the sun set over Ayer’s Rock, but I’ve watched ducklings hatch out of eggs; that the little black dress I bought because a magazine said every woman needed one was a mistake for me; that having balance in one’s life is important; that making money truly is secondary to feeling I’ve made a contribution; and that life is heartbreaking, fragile, and precious.
I also know that I still need to work on patience, that I still have more questions than answers; that I don’t appreciate people enough, that it’s a mistake to bring a tired four-year-old grandchild out for dinner; that I shouldn’t let an ice cream cake defrost overnight in the refrigerator (really, what was I thinking?!) and that I’ll never accomplish all I hope to.
It was a gastrointestinal mistake to eat cabbage before going on a long bus ride and an embarrassment not to wear something over my swimsuit when I swooshed down the steep water slide. It’s also a mistake not to laugh at my mistakes.
I’ve lived through numerous wars, the assassination of President Kennedy, the spread of AIDS, the Challenger disaster, September 11th, and the Coronavirus pandemic, but I’ve also seen a man walk on the moon, heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, attended my kids’ college graduations, and held six grand babies. I’m honored to join with talented, inspirational people, and I can still give fellow pickleball and tennis players a rousing competition on the court.
I now know the meaning of words like temporomandibular joint, plantar fasciitis, fibrocystic, and squamous cell carcinoma, but I also know maxillofacial surgery, arch supports, benign, and Mohs surgery. I know given the chance there’s some decisions I’d change, but there are more that I wouldn’t.
Our birthdays need a totem. I choose the butterfly. By this time I’ve been the larvae feasting and growing, I’ve spun my cocoon, been transformed, and laid my eggs. I like to hope I’ve come to the stage in life where I can unfurl the ol’ proboscis and sip of life’s pleasures, and maybe share some goodness along the way.
Adapted from an earlier birthday column