Saturday, July 11, 2009

How old are you now?

I stopped in the local pet shop the other day to buy meal worms for the remaining class pet, one of two sweet girl geckos I brought home when I retired a year ago. She's . . . can she be 9 now? Her sister died recently, and this one--Tillie or Lizzie, I never kept them straight--lives alone in the aquarium that has prime real estate in the living room . . . so I won't forget to feed her. And, okay, so she'll have "socialization," such as it is. Sometimes she gets more attention than I do, but that's a post for another time.

I live in a home of old creatures. An old gecko, and old cat, who at 18 is amazingly youthful despite her missing teeth, and gives me more attention--and eye contact--than my husband (also old) does. But this is for the other post I mentioned.

I'd made a comment to the woman at the pet store, a joke really, about having mid-life issues. And then I thought, "Midlife. Who am I kidding?" To be truly MIDDLE aged I will have to live to 116.

I got a book from the library the other day, Memory Lessons: A Doctor's Story, a memoir by a gerontologist who writes of his father's Alzheimer's disease. He calls his father the "oldest old."

It seems that in the world of gerontology "old" has been split and redefined in several categories. Age sixty-five to seventy-four is considered "old." Those between seventy-five and eighty-four are labeled "old old." And the "oldest old" are eighty-five and up.
The young me

I'm none of those yet, but I hope to become each of them in due time. I'm "old mid-life" if I may create my own label, but I feel ageless inside. As my father said in his latter years, "I feel like the young me looking out of the same eyes." I guess this is why mirrors or photos provide a jolt. Who is that old middle aged person that looks a little like me?

May I someday be among the oldest old?

Yes, please!
Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative. ~Maurice Chevalier


tim said...

Love that childhood picture! Gotta love that print on the couch and the wallpaper. I saw a picture of my wife when she was a teenager the other day and realized I'd have never been able to talk to her, if I'd have known her when the picture was taken. What a pretty girl she was back then.

Wanda said...

What a fun post to read. I'm in the "old" catagory but like your father, feel a young women in side most of the time.

The picture of you on the couch gave me a start.....I have a picture of our second daughter Julie, at that age, and you are a dead ringer... I can't believe the similarity...will have to dig that photo out and email it to you.

Love and Hugs

DUTA said...

A neighbour of mine used to say that old age begins at 65 and that each additional year is to be considered a present from Above.

"I leave it to God's decision' he said, "I myself am afraid to pray ,ask for more years,for more presents. I have children aged 50 which is the age when illnesses make their appearance and sometimes ,a 50 year old child dies before a 75 year old parent. I wouldn't, couldn't face a tragedy like that".

Ross Eldridge said...

Hi there, Ruth,

I so enjoyed this. I'm turning 60 in a few months' time, which really does feel like a milestone. It's also rather scary as my family members, on both sides, are not long-lived (apart from the one grandmother who reached 104). My mother managed 65, my father and his brother reached 70, but many in the family didn't do that well. Every time I sneeze I think: "This is it!"

Your father's words, the "young me looking out of the same eyes" are exactly what I've been searching for to describe my situation. I honestly feel to be, still, about 20 (a tad naive and wondering at the world) as I shuffle along in my quite-old age. I wonder at my aches and pains "This isn't right!" ... but, of course, it is.

And then I notice I wear my trousers rolled ...



Pauline said...

Age is such a tricky thing. Chronologically I'm 63. Physically I feel much older some days and much younger others. Emotionally I yo-yo between Pauline-in-charge and oh-my gawd! Mentally I calculate I could still be in my prime if only I could remember exactly when that was and spiritually I'm ageless.

Now, bring on the post for another time about the eye contact ;)

Lisa said...

I love that picture of you as a little girl, Ruth!

As Mark Twain said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." I like that philosophy. :-)

sc morgan said...

Hi Ruth. I'm emerging from blog exile and was happy to read this piece.

I loved this. My grandmother's sister (what would that make her to me? Great Aunt) Betty used to say, when she looked at herself in the mirror, age 89 or so, "Well, I see you have your mask on today."

As you know, I just turned 60, but I certainly don't feel sixty. I think we all have a younger version of ourselves lurking in our brains. Perhaps that's why there are so many injuries in the old; we just think the kid in our mind can do stuff our decrepit bodies can't handle anymore.

Love the photo of the cat.

Tere said...

I remember I was visiting my great-grandma in a nursing home when I was 12 and she was in her 80s. We were having lunch and the conversation was slow, what with me being very shy and not having spent a lot of time around her. Finally she said to me, "Do you ever look around at all these old people and wonder what you will like when you get to be their age?" I nodded my head yes and she said, "So do I." I remember laughing but she was serious. I totally understand now.

Pam said...

Loved this post and the comments also Ruth, particularly Ross Eldridge re aches and pains thinking "This can't be right...but it is". When I hobble along with arthritis/rheumatism (but that's an OLD person's disease I think to myself)I notice all the hobbly arthritic animals around and think "I know just how you feel", particularly with the cold mornings we are experiencing here. I love old animals very much, and think that cat of yours is beautiful.And you know what else is beautiful? What your daughter wrote about you for your retirement a few posts back. I have just read it.Incrediby touching.

Rozel (a.k.a. Michelle) said...

My grandma, who is 86, heard of a friend who died at the age of 90. Her response was: "Boy, 90 is awfully young to die".