Lately, I’ve been thinking about age.
It surprises me that I’m 68. That seems so unreal to me. Most of the time, and while I know that my body aches more than it used to, I feel very young in spirit. And then I think of that number – 68 – and I think I should feel old.
When I was a child and my sisters and I used to play dress-up, we’d each get to choose the age we would portray. One of my sisters and I always wanted to be 19. Since she was older than I was, she always got to be that age and I had to choose some other age to play. For some reason, that age seemed to be the age that everyone should want to be. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because at 19, we would still be teenagers and yet would be on the verge of adulthood. So, perhaps, it was an age full of promise.
When one of my sisters and I would argue about something, she’d eventually say, “Why can’t you act your age?” To that, my response was always, “Tell me how a 14 year old [or 10 year old or whatever age I was at the time] should act and I’ll do it!” She never had a response.
Turning 65 was supposed to be a milestone for anyone.
Then, I’d get to retire on a pension. Then, I’d be able to do what I wanted to do without having to do what was expected of me by my bosses. Somehow, to me, it always felt like some form of age Monopoly – kind of like being able to retire was like passing ‘go’ [even if I didn’t get $200].
The years seemed to pass and I got older without my being very aware of that.
Each new year was another number. Just that and nothing else. And then, I retired when I was 59. I might have chosen to wait until I turned 65 and I didn’t. I did the math and knew that, for each additional year that I worked, I’d only receive about $200 net extra per year. That just didn’t seem worth it to me. There was no benefit to staying longer except possibly making it to the top of the seniority list for my school board.
Both of my parents died when they were 69.
When my oldest sister turned 70, I treated her and her husband to a birthday dinner at a favourite resort. She’d beaten the family mortality number. And then, when my other sister turned 70, I sent her a big bouquet of flowers to celebrate that she’d passed the family age marker. And now, I’m approaching it. And I wonder how my 70th birthday will be celebrated.
A few years ago, one of my sisters had a stroke. It has severely limited her life. She can no longer walk. Her power of speech has been affected. She can no longer drive. She cannot look after her basic needs. She has given up so many things that interested her. Her world has collapsed. She now needs to move into assisted care and her husband is balking at the idea. He doesn’t want to move. As my oldest sister said, he won’t move and she can’t. – Age.
Teenagers are so blithely arrogant about age and getting older.
It all seems so nebulous to them – something that will happen in the distant future. And then, there comes a time when aging cannot be ignored. It does happen to us all. Our bodies were not designed to live for centuries.
And so, as I’ve been thinking about age, the question for me is,
“Will I choose to be held bound by the number and any physical limitations which might happen for me, or will I choose to know that my age is only a number and that it is not any representation of me and my spirit?”
And I know that, for me, my age is irrelevant to the I AM that I know I am – now.