An obituary in the paper claims that Jane Smith, age 78, passed away at home, last Thursday; I do not find it surprising nor particularly sad (after all, I did not know her)—in fact it seems quite normal. It falls into the category of “She lived a long life and died at an appropriate age.” Of course—if she had died huddled with her grandchildren as the bombs rained down on her Syrian neighborhood, or she was accidentally shot to death by Trumpian thugs in an ICE raid, or if she suffered a heart attack leaning against a back alley wall in skid row—then it would have been a tragedy. But more about old age in a dangerous world in the future.
Now I am 78 years old.
Today I’m in San Diego, celebrating my birthday with a hike up a (small) mountain. I am not feeling old-old and, in fact, this decade is proving to be one of the happiest of my life. Let me write my way toward understanding why that is so?
Maybe 78 really is the new 68? But that doesn’t explain why I’m happier now then when I was the real 68. Which means what?
- I am generally content with life as I’m living it right now. Family all doing well. Satisfying job surrounded by interesting people and happenings. Pleasant apartment I can afford—in fact, between my modest social security and equally modest salary, I live with sufficient basics and even a small amount of travel funds. I have friends, a car, lots of books and, all about me, a high desert environment that is sometimes magical.
- I’ve finally accepted who I am. A person who will die without ever being able to social-dance (You can guess how awkward that was at Senior Prom); a person of too-muchness in almost everything I do—which leaves me in a constant state of failure because I can never do it all; a person who has lost a few good friends by being blunter than necessary; a person with hair too fine, hips too wide, feet too knobby, voice too nasal.
I will Never be the scholar I so wished to be or a famous writer or a perfect mother or pretty again or have sex again or have a dog of my own again.
However some of my best friends are and I have the freedom to keep writing and I’m a good grandmother and I once was (pretty) and I have bright memories (sex) and there’s Luna to hug when I need that special Husky love.
It is not so bad…this life.
Now that you know who I am, please join me as I observe, investigate, and share this ageing process about which I express so much happiness! The political piece is included because it’s quite frightening finding myself on the brink of old-old, and living under a goon in the White House who is trying extra hard to eliminate any vestiges of a social net. I am vulnerable because I’m old, and my president doesn’t care that any of the tragedies mentioned in the first paragraph are happening to the world’s elders every day.
Happy Birthday to Me.