“What’s the oldest you’ve ever been?”
A fair question, although it may be obvious chronologically. Personally, I can’t attest to having lived or acted my physical age. Many would agree. Mentally, I don’t feel it.
My friend and speaker colleague Bob mentioned a funny ageism recently. Bob and his family were enjoying a meal together when his little granddaughter piped up. “Grandpa, how old are you?”
“Why, I’m 71.”
“Wow! Did you start out at 1???”
Out of the mouths of young whippersnappers.
This granddaughter still counts her age in years and half years. When do we start counting down instead of up?
Why do we look forward to ‘getting bigger,’ and shortly after we do, we stop looking forward to how our bodies will next change.
It’s not typically for the better.
I was at my annual checkup with my ophthalmologist to make sure 40 years of arthritis hadn’t messed yet with my eyes. I noted that in the last six months, my eyes didn’t seem to adjust or focus quickly when the TV screen would change. A blurry three seconds began to appear before the image would clear.
When it first started happening, I was concerned. The old ‘oh no, what now’ syndrome. But then a sneaking suspicion snuck in that this change was normal…for my age.
I first mentioned it to my neurosurgeon this spring. He looked at me, a half grin creeping across his face. “It’s an age thing, isn’t it?” “Uh, yea.”
My ophthalmologist was no less sympathetic. “You are middle aged, after all.”
Did he have to be so brutal about it?
Why is there no manual for aging? There are books to tell pregnant women what to expect during pregnancy and during that child’s first year, and what’s normal, and what’s not. Why are there no books for those entering middle age? With all us boomers venturing there, it would have to be a best seller. Maybe that’s my next book.
It could be that those in the medical professions have a primer on this stuff. I’d say that’s an unfair advantage. The rest of us slog through, wondering if something is wrong or if our peers are falling apart, too – but that they’re smart enough to keep mum regarding the small horrors coming our way.
We shouldn’t have to stumble through blindly. My slightly younger friends tease me that they’re well equipped to enter middle age because they know from my experience what’s coming their way. I’m glad I can be a beacon (she said wryly).
The preschool niece of an old boyfriend, when she thought we should know better, often asked, “What are you – new??”
Her comment reminded me of Bob’s granddaughter.
I barely remember being new. Heck, I barely remember much of anything some days. But I’m glad I’ve had the luxury of learning what it is to age, to forget, to have mal-adjusting eyesight.
Without it, I would never have lived past new. And I’m grateful I’ve gotten to be the oldest I’ve ever been.
This article first appeared in NurseTogether.com.