He has no breath and he takes it slow,
it frustrates him because he so wants to go.
He’s always played hard and was a ladies man,
his charms are not gone, someday he’ll understand.
He packs his air and works to breathe,
So young of heart he still wants to speed.
For one “born ready” this is a bitter pill,
these golden years suck and are going to take some skill.
Change has come to the one I love,
he’s out of breath and his lungs are done.
The virile man he fears has gone,
but I assure him he is very, very wrong.
Sometimes he fears this breath will be his last,
those player days are catching up from his checkered past.
It worries him that he might hear death,
still he says “fuck you” and catches his breath.
He’s watched the others who’ve gone before,
he’s seen the future and the prognosis can be poor.
Enjoy this day, its a gift to you
Waste it away at your own peril, fool.
I was lucky enough to have 4 amazing women in my life, both of my parents mothers and two of my parents grandmothers(besides my mother of course) that helped make me the woman I am today. I learned many things from each of the women;
From my great-grandmother Kate (my mother’s grandmother) I gained an appreciation for music and dancing from watching hours of the Lawrence Welk show with her in her big white leather recliner. My first memory of being empathetic to someone comes from her as well. I was spending the night with her and she was up on the end of the bed coughing, I got up and put my bathrobe around her shoulders and patted her back. I was maybe 4 at the time.
From my great-grandmother Anne (my dads grandmother) who I unfortunately knew for the shortest period of time I gained a love of shortbread cookies, admiration for hard work(she worked in our families plumbing business until well into her 80’s) and a giggle inside whenever I hear someone refer to a child as a wee one, because she always laughed and smiled when her wee ones visited her at her home or in later years in the rest home.
From my grandmother Jean (my dad’s mom), who was one of the most elegant and beautiful women I have ever met; I learned to play chinese checkers, love green peppers and received my first bottle of perfume(Charlie by Revlon).
From my grandmother Buddy (my mom’s mom) who I was so lucky to have in my life the longest I learned; to play Gin Rummy and Cribbage, to pour a drink, to make potato salad and love blue cheese. I flew on my first airplane with her and my rode on my first train. She helped me with my golf game, worried about my love life and always rode my ass about things I was doing wrong.
I really wish I could ask them so many questions, but here are ten I would love ask:
1.) What brought you the most joy in life?
2.) Who was the love of your life?
3.) What regrets do you have if any?
4.) When and where were you the happiest?
5.) What did you enjoy most and least about your occupations? (All of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had jobs outside the home at one time or another)
6.) What advice would you give me now to live a happier and fuller life?
7.) What would you tell me to quit worrying about?
8.) Who was your first boyfriend, your first lover, your first kiss?
9.) How do you make this dish? (each of them had a specialty and unfortunately I only have a couple of the recipes)
10.) What part of you do you see in me?
If you have special people in your life, ask the questions now don’t wait until it’s too late.
If you have lost someone special in your life, are there questions you wish you had asked?
Recently, I sat inside a restaurant by a window looking out on to the patio eating area outside. An old woman with an oxygen tank sat out there alone eating her lunch and reading the “Trader Joe’s” “Fearless Flyer”. Her grey hair was cut in a stylish short bob, she wore a colorful sweater and cute sneakers. The cord for her oxygen tank was tucked discreetly under her shirt and dangling to the ground with the tank itself in the seat next to her in a black bag.
She made me wonder about my life at that age (I do hope I make it that long in good health). Will I be alone? Chances are, yes I will be alone. I don’t have biological children, my step-daughters are older than I am, the grandkids are in far off places and I haven’t gotten to know the great-grandchildren as well as I would have liked. They grow up and get busy and we get less mobile.
Finding a second love of my life seems doubtful in my 50’s or my 60’s if I’m lucky enough to keep my husband healthy for that long. So a grey haired single life will be in my future. I guess for some the grey haired single life is swinging, a New York Times Op-Ed article I read, Sex and the Single Senior by Ezekiel J. Emanuel talked about the huge uptick in STD’s in those ages 65 and older;
“Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rapid increases in S.T.D.’s among older people. Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent. Those numbers are similar to S.T.D. trends in the 20- to 24-year-old age group, where chlamydia increased by 35 percent and syphilis by 64 percent. Experts suggest there are four main factors contributing to the rise in S.T.D.’s among older Americans.”
The article also pointed out the similarities of retirement living to college campus living with lots of similarly aged people living in close proximity to one and other which was leading to the inevitable interaction of the sexes. This statistic about condom use was also interesting;
“But while they are having a lot of sex, seniors didn’t seem to get the safe sex memo, or when it came through they ignored it because they did not think it applied to them. They obviously don’t have to worry about pregnancy. And they grew up before the safe sex era. So seniors might think they have no reason to use condoms. According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, among college-age Americans, condoms are used in about 40 percent of sexual encounters, but only in about 6 percent of sexual encounters among those 61 and older. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that older men who use Viagra and similar drugs are six times less likely to use condoms compared with men in their 20s.”
Apparently they need to begin handing out safe sex pamphlets with those Viagra prescriptions. Mr. Emanuel suggested Social Security begin sending out safe sex messages with the retirement checks.
All of this rings true, I know not long after (I mean in a matter of weeks) my grandmother passed away there were at least three women vying for my grandfathers affections. And it wasn’t long before he had a girlfriend he was traveling with and spending time time together cooking and golfing. He said he wasn’t in love, but he liked the company.
Maybe there won’t be a second love of my life, but chances are I could get laid in my old age, if trends hold true. But, “No Glove, No Love” will be the rule.
Do you worry about any particular part of growing older?
A recent NPR piece caught my attention this week. The Grumpy Point: When a Man Turns 70. They were looking at a study published in the March 2014 issue of Psychology and Aging about how men approach their “Golden Years”. I wrote previously about how my husband is not very impressed with his “F’ing Golden Years“.
Gerontology professor, Carolyn Aldwin, from Oregon State University and the lead author on the study says;
““Some older people continue to find sources of happiness late in life despite dealing with family losses, declining health, or a lack of resources,” she said. “You may lose a parent, but gain a grandchild. The kids may leave the house, but you bask in their accomplishments as adults. You find value in gardening, volunteering, caregiving or civic involvement.”
Aging is neither exclusively rosy nor depressing, Aldwin said, and how you react to hassles and uplifts as a 55- to 60-year-old may change as you enter what researchers call “the fourth age,” from 75 to 100, based on your perceptions and/or your life experiences.”
“The Fourth Age” is an interesting concept, with more and more people getting to those magic numbers, but ill-equipped for the costs mentally and physically of that age. My husband is in this group now and has definitely been experiencing the challenges that come with age; more health complications, his energy levels isn’t the same, he gets upset that his mind just isn’t as sharp as it used to be. He says his head still feels like he’s 40, but he definitely knows his body is now in “the fourth age” and it is tough on him.
Little things seem to upset him the way they never used to, silly stuff like spilling something or the dogs fighting or kids making noise in the neighborhood, he just no longer has a tolerance for any of it. The cranky curmudgeon is what I like to call him sometimes. The good thing is it generally only lasts a short time and then the mental laps kicks in and he forgets why he was mad in the first place.
Are you in the “Fourth Age” or dealing with someone that has gotten grumpy?
That elusive day way off in the distance when I can give my suits to Goodwill, ride off into the sunset and do what I want. But what?
My husband, as I mentioned in a previous post, is a lot older than I am and can technically retire whenever he feels like it. A pension and social security are ready and waiting for the day he decides he doesn’t want to or can not work any longer. But he doesn’t want to retire just yet. He says “I’m not ready”, “What would I do with myself all day?” and “I don’t want to just sit in the house and stare out the window until you come home from work.” But what could he do with his time if he wasn’t working? He says he has no idea.
A recent New York Times article by Tara Siegel Bernard about Coping When Not Entering Retirement Together talks about the need to communicate, the feelings of guilt on the retirees part about spending money when the other spouse is still working and working out your schedules. An excerpt;
“With more and more baby boomers retiring each year, either by choice or because they lost their jobs in the economic downturn, many couples must coexist, if only temporarily, in different phases of life. Living two different realities can lead to a variety of challenges, both financial and emotional, from brewing resentments about how a partner is spending free time, to how to reconcile the spending mind-set of a retiree and of someone still collecting a paycheck.“
I would probably be a little jealous of his free time, but I also know he has more than earned the right to retire when he’s ready.
But I don’t want to get to 67 and not have that next thing to engage my life. In fact I want more things than work to engage in now; which is part of the reason I began this blog so that I can begin to enjoy one of my passions. Retirement is 20 years away, I don’t want to keep planning on living the way I want to in 20 years, I want to do it now. But how?
Also, there is “the bucket list”. I found several sites recently that are focused on helping and documenting people checking things off their bucket list. The Bucket List Society and The Bucket List Blog are a couple I found interesting. My list is long and mostly filled with places that I want to travel to; Scotland, Japan, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Peru, Venezuela, Cuba, Alaska, Kenya and on and on. I have two friends that are travel addicts and am quite envious before and after every trip they take.
I have been stuck for awhile, but I am slowly figuring out my next steps, what brings me fulfillment and happiness and I am evaluating what and who I want in my life and I am going to make those things happen.
Do you have a plan for life after retirement or to live the life you want now?
Now that I’m getting so close to the Big 5-0 articles on aging, growing older, retirement and social security are attracting my attention more often.
Yesterday I was caught by surprise by a New York Times article about Gloria Steinem turning 80. Yes, 80, that is not a typo. I always think of her as my mothers contemporary, but she is 15 years older. In the article, NYT Op-Ed Columnist, Gail Collins wrote “This is What 80 Looks Like” about Ms. Steinem’s decades in the spotlight. Asking Ms. Steinem what she had planned for her 80th birthday.
“She’s planning to celebrate in Botswana. “I thought: ‘What do I really want to do on my birthday?’ First, get out of Dodge. Second, ride elephants.””
Getting out-of-town and riding elephants sounds like a perfect birthday celebration, I’m just not sure I want to wait until I’m 80 to do it.
Another comment from Ms. Steinem struck me:
“Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” But, she added, “80 is about mortality, not aging. Or not just aging.”
Fifty does feel like it’s looming to me, like a cliff that I am heading towards and at times I am trying to swim like hell away from and other times I just lazily float down the river enjoying the ride.
A wonderful poem on the blog Ephemeral Memories “The Midlife Moment of Truth“. contained a line;
“Each innocuous day adds up to months, years into decades“
You know the saying “time flies”? I know my grandparents and my parents have said it over the years and you never quite understand that statement until you get there, but time really does fly. And a lot of that time is innocuous. I want less innocuous time and more memorable time filled with fun, people I care about, things I am passionate about doing and more laughter.
As I wrote earlier this month about my husband getting older and his comments about his “F’ing Golden Years” not being very golden, it’s giving me a preview of the trials of aging, but also some of the triumphs of aging. The no longer wasting time on things that are of little importance, the ease of saying “No”, the wisdom to know that a bad day or unhappy event will pass and pleasure and happiness will return.
Anne Karpf of The Guardian wrote an article earlier this year “Ageing is a mixture of gains and losses” that had several parts that resonated with me;
“The denigration of age is built upon the idealisation of youth, and both do violence to reality. Being young is rarely as unconflicted, nor old as wretched, as the stereotypes would have us believe.”
The stereotypes of every age do have truth to them, but they are definitely not the whole story.
And a great quote on the passions that can come with age.
“One of the most delicious accounts of how growing older can mean growing more engaged was written by Florida Scott-Maxwell, the American-born playwright, suffragette and analyst. In 1968, when she was 85, she wrote: “Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My 70s were interesting and fairly serene, but my 80s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. To my own surprise, I burst out with hot conviction … I must calm down. I am far too frail to indulge in moral fervor.””
Though only in my late 40’s I do find myself less willing to sit back and take things as they are or as they are presented; if something is not to my liking I find myself more often than not voicing my dissent, walking away from it or just ignoring it.
How are you aging?
I married an older man. I mean classic cradle robbing older man younger woman kind of older man. I have loved him for nearly 30 years now and hope to love him for 30 more.
This week our lives changed, not in a major, sudden or dramatic way from an accident or an unexpected area of our lives, but from something we have been facing for nearly a year. I knew it was coming, really knew it would happen some day. Still, when “some day” actually arrived, no matter how much I thought I had prepared and planned for it, run it through my mind, it still made me catch my breath, stopped my heart a bit and unsettled me.
I have been on the verge of crying most of the week. Crying for my husband who is handsome, smart and very special who now will have to carry an oxygen tank with him everywhere he goes, who on hearing the news asked to cancel our impending road trip, doesn’t know how to deal with the questions that will come at work and I think is just plain scared about the path ahead in these “f’ ing golden years” as he likes to say. But also on the verge of crying a little bit for myself and feeling guilty for it, because it’s not me with the lifestyle alteration, it’s him with the tank, not me. But it feels like it is me, with the limits being put on my life too. Now I’m tethered to my home, my world shrinking, options and doors being closed.
Like I said, I knew this day would come, it was inevitable. I planned for it, was warned of it, recognized it and still I am in a daze.