Aging in Place or Going Commando

A few days ago, someone asked my age. “I’m 75,” I said without hesitation, and the person, I was talking with, most likely a 30-something, looked at me in horror, like I had made some sort of faux pas, or worse. Should I have lied and aimed for 56 or 62 or even 40? Who’s to know, right? Maybe, but the truth is I’m 75, not getting younger and am quite sure that I don’t want to get younger. Getting older isn’t exactly a happy meal with a glass of wine, but younger isn’t necessarily a romp along the beach either. My gray hair and wrinkly skin serve as badges of honor to me, meaning that I have lived this long, can still walk and talk and eat mostly without dribbling, although it can be a problem at times, particularly with soup. I’ve survived some of the tests of time and now I am aging in place and frankly, I like it.

It isn’t very hard to be 75, I think 13, 14, and 15 were much harder. Remember acne, boyfriends, girlfriends, stress over being able to drive, and prom dates, they brought tears and torment. The half-century mark convinced me to learn to make martinis and the day I turned 60, I cried my eyes out. “Sixty!” I screamed at my husband. “I don’t want to be sixty. Sixty is old and pretty soon I’ll be 62 and eligible for social security.”

“Calm down,” he said, trying to appease me. “Sixty-two means you can start thinking about retirement.” That was no consolation. This Type A hadn’t even thought of retirement, and the massive hot flash clusters still plagued me daily.

“I’m not thinking about retirement because retirement is for old people and I’m not old,” I shouted back, and continued wailing at him until he brought me a glass of wine which I guzzled. I held out my empty glass and he wisely returned with the whole bottle. He was a very smart man.

“You can quit teaching school and we can travel and do all kinds of fun stuff,” he reminded me. And we did. I somehow got over the age sixty-two crisis and we started doing “fun stuff.” Traveling, visiting friends, trying new adventures. Hot flashes didn’t go away, but I tried my best to ignore them.

Wrestling with the age thing is difficult. Sometimes my body says I am 18, like when I am swimming or dancing or riding a bike, feeling like I could go on forever. But then my body does a flipflop, suddenly reminding me that I am age 75 and nothing works and in order to get out of bed in the morning, I must review the morning’s aches and pains, determining if I should just lie where I am. Finally, I crawl slowly from under the blankets concentrating intently so as not to rip my muscles and ligaments, all the while trying to remember where I left my pain medicine and hope to high heaven, I can find my hearing aids and teeth. Just as I think that the morning aches are leaving, without reason or warning, the pains migrate from one muscle to another, and at that moment, I have to rethink the whole aging in place thing, wishing I were 25 again and could face the day commando.

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