I penned a column a couple years back about aging and the rather uncomfortable nature of it all. Maybe I hoped that just putting those words out in the universe would stop the clock.
In what may come as no surprise to most of you, the Universe was busy trying to figure out more important things, like how to protect itself from global warming and which Kardashian would move fat from one part of her body to another to plump it up; therefore, I am still going about the business of getting old.
So now what? Should I be happy I have survived and embrace my age? Should I work on developing an anti-aging potion and promote it in small town newspaper columns? I am guessing there are not enough herbal concoctions or unharvested seed pods in the remote parts of the rainforest to erase what has been happening since I first shared my concerns with you. Following that first writing, things have been on a decline, much like the ramp I am sure I will soon need at my house because steps will have become too difficult for someone my age.
I am pretty sure I first noticed I had become ancient, a dinosaur, a relic of another era—well, you get the picture—when I said out loud about a box, “Oh, that’s a good one. Let’s keep it.”
In my defense, this box was sturdy, a nice medium size, and had no visible markings. When I think of the many uses for that box, my spine tingles. Actually, I guess that could be the heating pad I am propped up on. But I digress, which along with my abnormal attachment to a heating pad, technically is another bit of evidence of my aging.
I hear people say they feel like they got old overnight. Not me. I can account for about a decade’s worth of a slow, tortoise-like crawl toward geriatric tendencies.
A hint might have been when I put the tasks for winterizing my house on my written, not digital, calendar. “Coil up outdoor hoses to go in garage,” said the entry on October 1. “Check the hardware store for window kit sale,” said October 10.
At the hardware store, I nodded to others, all of us in our sensible snap front windbreakers, collectively in pursuit of just a roll of plastic and some tape to keep out that bitter wind. We have lived through it. We know what’s coming.
It might have been a conversation some five years ago with a new bride who asked me about my recipe for homemade mac n cheese that cemented the idea I am aging. My recipe has pleased generations, and I do realize the irony of this entry, as bragging about a special recipe may itself be a sign of aging.
In a favorite game of old people, I was having her guess the recipe ingredients, delighting each time she was wrong. The bride sampled another bite of the pasta and said, “There is a little sharp taste that I can’t identify.”
I took the wadded tissue I had tucked inside the neckline of my shirt, because us old people want to be prepared, so we store a lot of things there, and I dabbed away a tear that came up as I chuckled, thinking about my secret ingredient. “Sharp, you say?”
She nodded and tried to describe the taste. I finally gave in.
“I use a smidge of dried mustard,” I said. “I stir it in after all the cheese is melted so it doesn’t cook off.”
“Smidge?” she said, confused. Who doesn’t know what a smidge is? Ahhhh. A young person, making me officially an old chef, one who eyeballs things and doesn’t measure, just like my grandmother did.
If you count the fact that I sometimes have the overwhelming urge to discipline someone else’s kids, alternating with crying when I hear a friend is a new grandmother, I would say you have an old person before you.
Evidence of my age exists in the physical world as well. I literally Googled last week what it takes to get a handicapped placard for my car. I don’t need it now, but I sure would like to be prepared and get it on my calendar along with that winterizing stuff.
My clothing choices may also be an indicator of the fact time is not standing still. It used to be when my husband and I got invited to a special party, I would head out to buy a new outfit. More recently, I have caught myself thinking, “I have that pair of nice black pants (I suppose as opposed to a not so nice pair). If I could just find a flowy blouse to wear with them.”
There is not an old woman who doesn’t own a flowy blouse or two to bring that really fancy element to the good black pants in her old woman wardrobe. Wedding? Nice black pants and light-colored blouse. Funeral? Nice black pants and dark blouse. Concert? Nice black pants and…wait just a minute. Likely not going to that concert because I don’t want to be out that late.
I also proudly own denim shirts in three colors and lengths that I wear over and under about everything. They have that lived in look, sort of like my face.
And due to that lived in look on my face, I have found myself paying more attention to plastic surgery commercials. But because I am old, I also have a mental notebook of friends’ and family’s terrible surgery outcomes, so I am likely too chicken to be a real candidate for any skin tightening upgrades.
Recently, I have been unable to find a couple of brands of items I really like. I asked the clerk about one item (and truly, clerks exist only for us old people, because everybody else has already Googled where to find items and has a QR and coupon code ready), and she told me they had stopped manufacturing it seven years before.
Wait. What? So the bottle of it I have is seven years old? Gross. And sad—that I won’t be able to get any more of it.
I have found myself starting sentences with anyone who looks to be under 40 with, “You may be too young to know about this, but…” and then plowing through my story anyway, not caring that they have no point of reference. Old. I wanted to use #old here to make me seem more hip, but really, what’s the point?
Some good things have come from getting older. For example, I am a bit more frugal than I once was. I use all my empty prescription pill bottles to store things in. Yes, now that I have typed that I do indeed hear how it sounds.
Maybe getting older has made me behave more responsibly. I don’t drive on the highway as much at night, and I actually weigh my fruit at the grocery, but that is mostly to double check on that darned young clerk who rings me up.
I suppose the culminating evidence of my advancing maturity is that my daughter now recognizes me in commercials, ones that are not for young people products for sure.
“Did you see that guy, Mom? He bought a shirt like one he already had. Remember when you did that?” Sometimes there is a bit more subtlety to her comment as she gently guides me into the past.
“This guy that is doing the commercial for the heart monitor (who is typically an actor with a shock of white hair and bifocals, wearing a brown cardigan)--- did he used to be famous back in the day? Was he on one of your shows?”
And occasionally her comment is more self-serving, or to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she just has a heart of gold and wants to save us some money.
“Do you and Dad get any discounts on things when we travel…like for your age? Maybe we could stay a couple of extra days on vacation this year.”
I have decided to take a positive attitude about my aging and just live in the idea that my age is merely the number of years the world has been enjoying me--wrinkles, comfy denim shirts, good black pants and boxes, prescription pill bottle collection, and all.