writing

Aging

Female. Age 62. Appears stated age. Well appearing.

So says my medical chart. Age 62. Guess who had an annual exam on her birthday? Me. I have no idea why I scheduled one for that day because let me tell you, turning 62 was punishment enough. Top that off with the big weigh in, where it was duly noted that I’d gained back all 30 of the pounds I’d lost 3 years before. The doctor gave me a 2 pound reprieve for wearing sneakers, but still.

Age 62. Remember that statement made by Mick Jagger when he was in his 20s (and I’m proud to say he’s 10 years older than me) that old people were taking up precious space on earth, and should die? It was an offhand remark, but quoted in U.S. newspapers as a cruel one. I for one, certainly never thought I’d live to be  old.  My husband, 4 years older than me, says “it’s a state of mind.”  But, my mind is too crowded to make room for more states.  My age is the one “other” people turn. Women who get their hair done with curlers and dye their gray locks blue. Women who wear orthopedic shoes at $400 a pair, topped off with girdles to hold their hose up. Women with ample breasts who feed their husbands hot meals 365 nights a year. Women who have never exercised a day in their life, not including vacuuming, dusting, or doing laundry.

I am as flat chested as I was at age 13. I do not bake anymore, except for an occasional batch of brownies for when my son comes home, and not excluding Let’s Dish prepared meals with cooking instructions on the front label. My husband knows how to cook, and willingly fixes his own meals if I’m out during dinner. I do go to hair salons to dye my slightly grey hair ginger, but it’s a package deal with a cut and blow dry, and it’s 6 weeks in-between visits. No curlers or orange juice cans for me.  I refuse, no matter how many times I get stress fractures in my feet or neuromas in the ball of my foot, or tendonitis in my heel, to buy orthopedic shoes, gels, or lifts. My shoes come from DSW. Too bad if they hurt; these days, I live in tennis attire.

Well appearing. Of course I’m well appearing. I’m only 62!

No, wait. That sounds wrong. Even with my math dyslexia, I can’t be past 52, my birth year. I can’t count that high when it applies to me. It’s easier to remember a 5 and a 2 when asked my age, and no one doubts me. I do look young. Those horrid 30 pounds are barely noticeable, while my legs are my best asset. Well-tanned during summer, I tend to look younger than I am. My skin, though dark, is smooth of wrinkles, and my hair, clipped short, gives me a boyish look. Smiling helps too. Smiling is contagious, and I don’t often see many 62 year olds on the tennis court playing 5 games a week, or going around smiling. Maybe I shouldn’t be smiling, but these days I’m doing what I want to do, and that makes me happy.

Today’s 52 is the new 62. My mother’s age 62 was more like 72. She’d been an equestrian when young, but picked up smoking at age 11. When she died at age 81, she’d been smoking 70 years. Nonstop. I have never smoked in my life, not even weed. Of course, when my mother was 62, my father, also the same age, died suddenly. Handling grief is not easy, nor is a diagnosis of cancer of the endometrium and ovaries, which my mother was handed after the funeral. Her chance of survival was 20%.  But survive she did, and lived another 27 years. It was the smoking that made her look and act old at age 62, before the cancer, as well as the scars of her first heart attack at age 42. Though she wore gorgeous suits and hats, the fact that she had ample breasts and wore girdles and hose made her look aged.  She also didn’t exercise, enjoyed wine, and ate all the wrong things. But she one upped me on career. She worked until well after retirement age, before a new series of heart attacks slowed her down. Prior to her getting sick, she’d been a freelance writer, using articles to pay for trips to exotic countries. Africa, the snow covered Canadian Rockies, which she photographed while hanging out of a helicopter, a trip on the Orient Express, and Vienna, where she and my father listened to the Vienna Boys’ Choir one New Year’s Eve. After she recovered from radiation treatment, she started writing again, and sold one or two stories before closing the top on her typewriter forever.

I’m having a lot of guilt about filing for social security retirement at my age. After all, I’m not that old. But I was laid off from my job 8 months ago, and cannot find another one. Somehow, I have to pay my bills. Freelance writing isn’t as lucrative as it was before Obama moved into the White House. Nowadays, everyone who’s unemployed thinks they can write, and the market is saturated with people seeking editing and writing jobs. I’ve started my own business as a pet care provider, but so have a lot of other people. Competition is stiff. Good friends are using my services, but I worry that it won’t bring in enough money to cover what retirement funds don’t.

Well appearing. I shouldn’t be well appearing carrying so much worry. I should have had 2,000 heart attacks by now. I should have thrown myself under a bus. I should be working 3 jobs to make ends meet. I tried retail, but standing up all day was too painful for the 3 ruptured discs I have. I also tried nannying, and being an elder care provider, but all I heard from were scammers. If I were ample breasted, and with my extra 30 pounds, I could become a belly dancer, entertaining men at private parties.

My father was diagnosed with Type II diabetes at age 42.  He passed down that legacy to me. He loved desserts, and pies, cakes and ice cream, and English toffee. He could make the most amazing extremely thin French Fries, which he doused in vinegar and oil. He refused to give these delectables up, and would adjust his insulin accordingly to compensate for the excess sugar. He taught me well, and I admit, I do the same thing, but unlike him, I cheat in moderation, and exercise regularly. He died way before his time, of an infection left untreated, that ran rampant through his body, killing him within 6 weeks. My father did not look old at 52 or 62. Really, he was at the prime of his life. He was talking retirement, and spending every free moment he had with his grandson. He worked so hard, running the state medical society, starting an anti- malpractice insurance company, and lobbying for medical issues in Annapolis every winter, that he never had time to work out. He loved gardening, and mowing the acre of lawn he owned in Baltimore County. For him, that was enough exercise, even though he only did it in warm weather.

I loved my 40s. I especially loved my 50s. I celebrated my 50th birthday with a ladies’ slumber party in Nantucket. And when I turned 52, that’s when I decided against further aging. But suddenly I was turning 60. I should have been depressed, but, silly me, because I look so youthful, I believed I had bragging rights. “I’m 60,” I’d say to a roomful of 50 somethings, and they’d look shocked and congratulate me on my lack of wrinkles.  The latter part of being 61 and the beginning of 62 was a really hard time.  I dreaded turning a year older, and the cake I bought myself didn’t make me feel better. Things weren’t going well in my job, and my husband couldn’t find one. We were financially strapped and the stress was bearing down on me, physically and emotionally. Writing helped, making friends with a writing professor helped, and watching my son graduate from Northwestern Graduate School of Business helped, but facts are facts.  For every good thing that happened to me, three bad things would follow. It seemed I could do nothing right, and berated myself repeatedly, which of course, did not help. When I was 62 and a half, I lost my job, as well as my career identity.

62, huh? I’d always thought that I’d retire never, and be in my 70s before I stopped working. Not that I loved the 9-5 grunge, but I love money, and travel, Talbot’s, vacations by the sea, and credit cards that I could pay off. Money might not bring happiness, but it does offer security. I once had a large nest egg, and for me, that’d be what I’d use during my twilight years. But financial difficulties have dashed that dream. Which brings me back to social security. Thank God there is such a thing.

Well appearing.  Yes, I still am.

62. Yes, I still am.

Do I love my 60s? The verdict isn’t in, as I’m only 62. But, ha-ha, Mick Jagger is 10 years older, and look at the wrinkles in his face. He looks like he’s done hard time.

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