When I was younger, I thought age came in only two flavors—you were old or you were young. I preferred young. I dreaded being—old. But I’ve discovered some things I wish someone had told me when I was 40.
The sixties (not talking about the 1960s—the hippie, Beach Boy, maryjane toke years, ) talking about the years between 59 and 70. I haven’t experienced so much growth and change since I was a teenager.
These are the years where the decisions we made in our 40’s reap consequences—for good or bad. When I was 40 I thought the consequences were immediate—divorce or stay together, your kids go to college or they don’t, you get to go to Europe (or Alaska or Hawaii) or you don’t. I didn’t realize that what you put into your mouth at 40 stays in your body like a simmering volcano, waiting to erupt when you reach 60. Ditto, the conversations you have with your husband, the disposable income you tuck away, the amount of exercising or couch potatoing you do.
The early 60’s seems to be a gateway. People die of heart attacks, have strokes and cancer. They die on golf courses in greater numbers. I thought it was my imagination, or my unlucky choice of friends, but my doctor told me that if I live to 70 I’ll probably live to 90. Wow. Not sure I want to, but that’s another story.
Here’s what I know about being 60-something:
Sixty comes in like a lamb. You and your husband are those happy people in cruise line and Viagra commercials—smiling at the camera like you have a secret. Smiling with your own teeth and hair, wearing sexy shoes and real make-up. You think nothing of driving into “The City” to take in a show. Midnight and wine are your friends. So is your chin. In good lighting you could pass for 48. And you do.
By 68 you start to see life as an assembly line. Some of your family and friends are dropping off. People who rode the conveyer belt on the last loop aren’t there anymore. You start to wonder if it’s your turn for the packing box.
You start making a mental “Bucket List” that includes unfinished novels, a collection of short stories from all the stories you’ve written. You start giving things away—advice, clothes, a little cash to your children (as long as they don’t call saying they’re in jail in Mexico.) You start reading about senior abuse. You make a medical end-of-life plan—just in case. You go elk hunting, walk part of the Pacific Crest Trail, learn to fish, learn to play the piano. You buy the luxury car you always wanted because it may be your last.
You notice that the clothes and shoes you’re drawn to in stores aren’t that comfortable. You make some unwise fashion decisions and reality starts to dawn. You find an excellent assisted living facility for your mother. You go through her closets and you keep a few pieces of her clothing that you always liked—and you hang them in your own closet. You wear the muumuu a week later. It becomes a staple.
Your brain starts to get really smart. You’re a whiz at Sudoku and Scrabble. You hang onto candidates’ policies and can’t understand why everyone doesn’t vote. You see both sides of the issues—either that or you become radically one-sided. You read prostate statistics. Take an over-55 driving course—and ace it. You record TV shows because you don’t need 90% of the stuff they sell in commercials. The most important phone calls start with, “Hello . . .Grandma?”
Listening to your friends complain about their mates gives you a headache. So do a lot of things that you decide to cut out of your life. Church becomes personal, the journey more spiritual, people more lovable. You share meals at restaurants and over-tip out of guilt. You post photos of your grand-kids on the refrigerator and Skype them on Sunday afternoons, and spend long weekends at soccer games and gymnastic try-outs. You play with the grand-kids because their parents are too busy working—and too serious about life. You eat ice cream sundaes. You play.
You make plans for the next ten years but you live every day in the moment.