I am becoming an old woman. I often joke about being an old lady but I never really thought so. It just seemed hilarious to me that younger people might classify me that way based on a meaningless number or a wrinkly wattle.
Me? Old? Ha!
But recent health problems have reminded me of the inexorable truth: I am getting old. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, there’s nothing wrong with that; it sure beats the alternative. It’s just that I grew up in our culture of youth worship. I am having a hard time letting go of the negative connotation most of us have about aging. I would rather be young.
I don’t want to be one of those “senior citizens” — the Boomers we think of as warehoused in assisted living facilities or senior communities, or the snowbirds who live in huge RVs parked cheek-by-jowl in asphalt-covered RV parks and call it camping. Their hair is short and neat, and they dress like there never was a 60s.
Please God, don’t let me turn into one of them
I laugh when my son gets embarrassed if I awkwardly high-five him or try to lift my chin in a properly cool way of greeting, but he makes me feel old and out of touch.
When younger people think I’m adorable for saying “fucking motherfuckers” to describe a certain political party, I wish they would just agree with me.
When I’m told how remarkable I am for living/traveling in a van at my age, I feel condescension.
But the truth is, I have reached my own psychological line between Not-Old and Old. I am 70.
I am there
When I was 29, I spent the entire year in dread of turning 30. The birthday came and went, I didn’t feel or look any different, and I realized how silly I’d been.
On my 40th birthday I got married, in part to avoid facing my fear of getting older alone–a mistake, to be sure.
On my 50th I moved to California, a sure sign of age denial.
I don’t remember my 60th or 70th birthdays, which might be a sign of something I’d rather not think about.
Now, I have had what may or may not have been a mild stroke–test results pending–but I appear to have a permanent, if slight, brain injury in the form of double vision that stubbornly refuses to improve.
A new pair of glasses will likely solve the problem but the word “stroke” makes me feel very old indeed.
I’ve slowed down when I walk because I’m afraid of losing my balance. Driving with one eye closed (until I get those glasses) is stressful to say the least. The same with shopping for groceries. I find myself holing up in the van more and more because it’s the only place where I can focus. I know others, old and young, suffer from much worse but this sucks.
I worry that I may become unable to take care of myself sooner rather than later. That I will wind up in another nursing home like the one where I spent two miserable weeks after my surgery last year.
What will happen to my dog? And the van?
I need to get my ducks in a row: write a will (with a DNR–Do Not Resuscitate), find someone willing to take Scout, take out a small insurance policy to pay off my debts, clean house.
Also: write that damn book before it’s too late.
The clock is ticking
On the plus side: during my high blood pressure episode three weeks ago, EKGs uncovered a previously undetected heart condition, one that I’ve apparently had since birth.
I know, you’re wondering what is “plus” about that. Well, I think of it as a get-out-of-jail-free card: Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome has the happy worst-case scenario of the heart simply stopping. The patient just drops dead one day–no pain, no long illness, no suffering (or very little). Don’t we all hope for something like that in the end?
No worries, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. But I find the idea comforting.
So: Ducks. Row.