But, this year, I’m tempering my aspirations with the realities of aging and the limitations it brings.
In my 60s, and I’m now a tweenager — certainly not young, thank goodness, but far from old.
Although my children insist otherwise, the Oxford English Dictionary says I have another four years of middle age, and I will fly that flag until birthday 66 redefines me. And, at that point, I may decide to forego labels altogether. I’m old enough to finally understand life, and too old to do much more about it.
Being a tweenager is terrific. I have all the benefits of being a teenager but none of the problems. My own car? Check. Monthly allowance without having to ask for it? Check. School and work? Only if I darn well feel like it, which means mostly I don’t.
When it’s snowing, I don’t worry about getting to work or whether there’s a school closure. All I must do is look out the window and say, “Isn’t that pretty?”
My tweenager status means I’ve made some adjustments to the things I want to do so they can co-exist with the things I can do.
I still watch “Saturday Night Live,” but on Sunday morning, after “Meet the Press.” Which I also tape, so I can sleep in.
I’m less concerned about getting a cool car and more so about getting enough fiber. I’m old enough to need a pill container, but young enough to insist it come in cool colors. When I travel, I want to check out the nightlife, but also need to make sure there is parking close by.
I used to have nice legs. Perhaps I still do; it’s hard to tell with the upper half of them covered by my rear end. And my upper arms? Take your time when you leave, they keep waving for a while.
And, for reasons I cannot explain, my mother’s hand is coming out of my sleeve. There are lines on my face even when I’m not smiling. And what is the deal with those brown spots?
Weight is, has always been, and continues to be the center of my life. To knit a sweater (yes, I took up knitting; don’t judge) I took my body measurements the other day. I have no idea where those numbers came from. That defective tape is going back. Good thing I save and catalog every receipt.
That’s another thing age brings: an obsession with paperwork being in order, being ready “just in case.” Wills, trusts and password documents are updated regularly, and we’ve reached an age where we carry a list of medications with us at all times. I need to know each night that, if I wake up dead, those who remain will not have a hard time going through my things and making sense of it all. My children know better. Nothing about their mother’s life has ever made sense.
As the broad mind and narrow waist of my youth begin to trade places, I have become a bystander on the battlefield where Father Time meets Mother Nature. I can control them a little, aiding one or the other, but mostly they will fight it out amongst themselves. No matter the outcome of the battle, my body is losing the war.
There are aches in places I didn’t know I had. If it doesn’t hurt, that’s because it doesn’t work. Last week, I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist for chronic congestion. It turns out my sinuses are fine; the problem is my stomach is sending acid across the miles to irritate my throat. Even my body parts are turning against one another in a phlegmy death march.
Are there regrets? Sure, but I try not to dwell on them. I regret that my scoundrel of a second husband didn’t suffer far more greatly and publicly than he should have. I regret that when I was in Saigon recently, I didn’t take time to stop and have a drink at the Continental, where journalists stayed and drank during the Vietnam War.
I regret every time I’ve passed someone walking in the snow and not pulled over to offer a ride, although those times are few. And I regret the times I haven’t forgiven when I could have.
Mostly I regret that this is the body I ended up with, an entirely preventable circumstance which I’m working hard to change. At this age, there is more acceptance than condemnation. My rule of thumb, as the rest of me goes south, is bigger hair and brighter lipstick. If you can’t hide it, decorate it.
Despite the many problems in our world (and when have we not had troubles?), I refuse to believe that anything but opportunity lies ahead. After all, our world, big as it is, is mostly very small; us, our family and friends, and our communities. For all of that, I’m in darn good shape. Except for the shape I’m in.
— By Shari Savage, Tribune community columnist