Nora Ephron’s mother’s advice that everything was worth becoming copy certainly makes starting a new decade all so much more palatable. I get to write about what I’m feeling and experiencing even if my angst sends shock waves through my now aging body. And I get to offer a sort of public service announcement to my fellow aging peers who haven’t yet hit my age and a new decade.
Well, there’s good news to share all around. First, my aging parts really make it a bit easier to tolerate the numbers going upward. My poorer eyesight makes it harder to see all the wrinkles that may be converging, especially around my eyes. And there’s good news also about my aging ears. I’ve heard that older people are much more susceptible to narcissism since there’s so much less time for us to talk about ourselves.
Now we get more than our five minutes of air time. We get hours. Hooray! And we can talk about our organ recitals or whatever else we want without being told to hush. So please forgive me if I haven’t asked how you or your children are. I probably couldn’t hear what you might say anyway. Yes, I should invest in a pair of tiny hearing aids but they’re expensive and we older folks get incredibly cheap. You remember when your parents took home the little sugar packets, extra plastic bags and anything they could grab. I’m not yet doing that, but I did decide to put money on my list of go-fund-my birthday wish list. Facebook keeps asking what charity I want to have friends donate to for my milestone decade, and I’ve decided even though it’s a bit tacky to suggest MOI, as Miss Piggy might say. It’s now or never.
As the date got closer, I found even more reasons to celebrate. First, the attention wasn’t bad; it permitted me to have an idea of what my closest friends and family might say about me after I’m gone, sort of a preview of the coming attractions of the memorial service and Shiva I’d like (of course with a good spread). Everyone is telling me about the thoughtful things I’ve done for them through the years and what they like about me. Of course, some tease about the things they don’t like, and that’s good to know, too, since there’s still a bit of time to change while I am alive.
I was surprised by how differently my friends reacted to the date as it approached, however. My younger friends or those almost my age bombarded me with nosey questions—the kind my mom taught me never to ask: how I felt, what it was like, if I felt I looked or acted differently, if I was spending a lot more time in the bathroom, if I was still having sex.
My older friends were more tactful and advised me that the change wouldn’t hurt or at least not for long, maybe, a few days. It was somewhat similar to what some had said when I came down with a bad case of the flu. “It will only be terrible for a few days and then you’ll forget it and be back to your chipper self.” Of course, they would say that. Every single day past my new age I am experiencing brain cells dying. Supposedly, the number equals 32,000 neurons or brain cells are lost every second or 1.9 million in a minute. I read this somewhere.
I also reveled in all the festivities…lunches, dinners, movies, theater and gifts. So many asked if I wanted a gift or an experience. In some cases, I voted for a gift. But I hoped none of my dear friends would have the same kind of problem I did when I went to buy a special gift for a former beau’s 60th birthday. The sales person at an expensive store I knew he would like asked how old the birthday boy would be. I thought how nosey—do you want to know if I date age-appropriately or what? It seemed irrelevant to the gift I was getting--a silver belt buckle and leather strap. I wanted to have it engraved and the salesman inquired further, “Do you want to hand- or machine-engrave it?” I had no idea. I asked what the difference was beside price and what he would suggest. He explained, “Since he’s turning 60, he won’t have long to use it so go with the machine engraving which is so much less expensive.” I relayed this to the former, now really old beau, who didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did.
For other friends I suggested gifting me an experience—climbing the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu or kayaking down the Amazon. Just kidding; I’m too old for crazy adventures. My writing partner Margaret offered to take me to the symphony in the afternoon. Lovely, but I wondered to myself if it was because she’s frugal and didn’t want to spring for evening tickets. Of course, I was thrilled with any outing together, especially since she hates shopping for gifts. And then it hit me. I’m sure she chose day-time because we’re now old—I won’t tell how old we are together but people in our collective number really shouldn’t be out past 7:30 p.m. So, I graciously said great. Furthermore, her much younger sister is taking us to lunch afterward, and I’m positive she’s glad she doesn’t have to babysit two older women who might fall asleep by dessert.
What’s delighted me most about my new decade is sharing the number and getting a fabulous shocked reaction. I first told my hair person since she knows everything. I said let’s add a few more highlights since I’m entering a new decade. She asked which one. I suggested she guess. She tried one and then another and then another and finally she guessed it. Who wouldn’t after all those tries. “You don’t look that age,” she said. Of course, I’ll continue using her. Then it was onto the car salesman who had already sold me a new car, so I assumed he could be honest. “I can’t believe it,” he said with the same incredulous look, adding, “Are you really that old?” which sort of ruined his response a bit. But then three young boys in my mother’s supermarket in New York City ruined the joy of look-at-how-young-I look. They were roughhousing in the narrow aisles and I asked them to stop so they wouldn’t bump into me. I’ve already had one bad broken arm and aging bones take longer to recover at my new decade. They didn’t refrain so I asked them again, a but less nicely. As I rounded the corner, I could hear one say, “Boy, is that old lady crabby!” I felt like the mean old lady who turns off her lights on Halloween or gives out cheap candy since she can’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. Plunge a knife into my heart, and it won’t hurt as much.
Had I really become mean and impatient with my new decade? I decided to ask my younger daughter who’s half my age, literally. “Are you upset about now having an old mother and have I become mean”? I asked. “Not at all,” she said in her always sweet cheery tone. I don’t know whether she was telling the truth or just trying to make me feel better. I do know she fulfilled her familial duty, which at my advanced age is heartwarming. According to the religious class I’m taking, children must honor and revere their parents. Her response fit that command.
And I’ve also decided that hitting the next decade in another 10 years will be even better and more momentous. I also know that until then I will savor all the 3,650-plus days that lie ahead. I’m too old to calculate just how many.