A conversation in our car yesterday after a long day of visiting our son and storytelling:
It was almost midnight and we were near the end of a 300+ mile trip when Larry said, "You know, I don't think of myself as old."
"I know," I replied. "I don't think of myself that way either. But other people seem to think we are."
"Yeah," Larry replied thoughtfully. "So I guess it must be true."
How odd this aging is. I feel no older and in my mind I feel as capable as I ever have, ready to try new adventures and tackle new ideas. Physically I still go at a pretty good pace through the day, often working into the wee hours even though I'm up at 7 am.
So what is "old"? Is it a chronological age only that allows the world to assume you have lost your ability to do certain things? Or is it how we view ourselves and the limitations we put on ourselves because we've reached a certain milestone?
I readily admit I have more aches and pains than I used to; I move stiffly sometimes and my hands ache and show the onset of arthritis. My hair is gray or mostly so. I have a few lines on my face. But mentally I feel as sharp as ever, perhaps even more so than when I was younger because I know so much more now and have a stronger base for decision-making and choices.
I have seen and heard the horror stories of elderly people who don't realize that they actually can't do the things they still think they can, like drive, manage money or live alone. Their minds tell them they most certainly can, and no one is going to stop them! Is there a point when the ability to be rational about our capabilities becomes impaired, just like our bodies?
Aging comes with lots of questions and surprises. I wonder about the phrase "growing old gracefully." Does that mean giving in, letting go and letting the rest of the world take care of you? That isn't my style, I'm afraid. I have no problem admitting that I'm 60 years old but to me that isn't old, it's just a reckoning of the time I've been on earth. I don't mind gray hair or wrinkles; I get aggravated at my stiff fingers and need for glasses.
So when will I actually be old? I suppose I'll know it when it comes. I hope so anyway. And I hope I'll still have the wisdom at that time to step back from the front line of my life and recognize that I can no longer do important life functions like drive or manage my house. And if I don't see it myself, I sure hope my sons have the strength to tell me that it's time to give it up.
In the meantime, life continues its rollicking course and this old lady is having one hell of a good time.