Tag Archives: aging

It’s Birthday Month

Hello

Wow – we’re really getting close. Bet you can’t wait until I write about something else.

17. Well, it’s June. And, like every June for the last 49 – OK, probably only the last 45 – years, I started the month with butterflies in my stomach. It’s probably something I should have gotten over long ago, but I just didn’t.

It’s my birthday month, dammit. It’s special.

I didn’t realize just how much I’ve always enjoyed June until I was at a wedding reception on Memorial Day weekend and a cousin I only get to see once every few years made a comment something to the effect of, “I know how you love June.”

And I do. I really, really do.

That’s not to say I – usually – make a big deal about my birthday or really want anyone else to, either. A group of friends got together for dinner for my 40th, and I’ve had a small gathering with just a few friends a couple years since then, but I can’t even remember the last time I had a party to celebrate getting another year older. My birthday comes, I usually have lunch or dinner with the kids, and then my birthday goes. No biggie.

But not this year.

To be honest, I do feel a little goofy talking about my birthday party, asking people if they’re going to come, blah blah blah. As extroverted as I am, and as much as I may joke otherwise, I really don’t like to make things all about me.

No, really. I don’t.

Except this is 50. Fifty. Fif. Tee.

It’s kind of a big deal.

So I’m all about the birthday party, and the plans, and hoping a lot of people can make it. Not because I want them to focus on me, but because I want to have a big party, for whatever reason. An afternoon (we’re doing a happy hour party – great idea, eh?) where a bunch of friends – and some strangers – get together and eat and drink and laugh and have a good time. THAT is what I want for my birthday this year. Fun and frivolity, food and friends, laughter and libations.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask. 🙂

 

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There is no escape

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“Old Lady of Havana” shot by Mark Daniel, 2009. I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

Still counting down to 50.

40. The fact that I had to reread the first paragraph of most of my “This is Fifty” posts is a sad reminder of why this particular post is relevant.

No matter how good you feel, no matter how much you’re not dreading entering a new decade of life, no matter how much you avoid letting the sun give you wrinkles or you color the gray out of your hair, there are some things about getting older you just can’t run away from.

  • A failing memory is at the top of my list. I don’t worry so much about Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it’s the more routine memory fails that really piss me off: the name of my neighbor’s mother, the movie that that one actress starred in, going to the store to buy coffee and spending $50 – without buying coffee, wondering why I came into a room.
  • 50 for molly3New aches and pains. I’ve always been a clutz and had my first serious knee injury when I was 10. Still, excruciating pain in my left knee last fall kept me from work some days, made getting around with the dog absolutely horrible, and made it next to impossible to sleep through the night. I went to the doctor expecting a torn meniscus and was right – but also have osteoarthritis so bad that fixing the meniscus would  be moot. Lovely.
  • Taking naps. I never realized the luxury of the nap until I was well into my 40s. They’re not a daily requirement, by any means – but most days I could fall asleep at any time, in any place, if given the opportunity.
  • Seeing my daughter post a link to a “Most kids today won’t know how hard it was” list, and then realizing that NONE of those things were issues when I was a kid. The trauma of having to carry a phone AND an mp3 player in your pocket?? Yeah, we spent our youth moving in stealth with no tracking device or means for our parents to find us. It was luxurious.
  • Bifocals. As though wearing glasses wasn’t hard enough, but having to discern whether you should tilt your head backward or forward or to just peer over the top of your glasses without losing your line of sight or still being able to see at all. And using bifocals on the tiny screen on your cell phone? Yeah – that’s a treat.

In all honesty, getting older is just about doing your best to feel good where you are. For the most part, I do.

Unless I’m forgetting something.

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Stairs, schmairs

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Part of a sporadic countdown to 50.

58. (OK, I don’t know why, exactly, but seeing that there are just 58 days left of my 40s just made my heart skip a beat. Fortunately, it was just one beat – or there might be a lot fewer days of my 40s.)

I’m moving.

I made a list of a lot of things I wanted to do this year, my “year of 50.” Take a vacation. Check. Spend more time with friends. Check (so far). Lose some weight. Check (so far). Do things I’ve always found excuses not to do in the past. In progress.

But moving? Moving wasn’t on my list.

50 for molly3It certainly could have been. The longest I’ve ever lived in any one residence is eight years, and that was the house I bought right after my divorce. Almost eight years to the day we moved in, the kids and I moved out and into what is my apartment now. On June 1, I’d have been there seven years – making it the second-longest address I’ve had in my lifetime.

So, really, moving could have been a possibility. It just wasn’t at the time of my list.

Sure, I’ve often looked to see what was available in the area. My current building isn’t secure, my mailbox is out in the open and I worry about freelance and royalties checks “disappearing.” There’s no garage, no deck, and I’m convinced one of my neighbors is dealing drugs.

But I have always decided to stay. It’s a nice enough apartment, and really, for the price and the location – you can’t get an apartment that big anywhere close.

But the first week of April I announced I was going to get serious about finding a new place, and less than two weeks later I had a place and had given notice to my landlord. The new apartment is in a secured building, with a locked mailbox, and there’s a garage, deck and fireplace. I’m excited.

Then yesterday it hit me: It’s on the third floor.

I knew it was on the third floor – I mean, I had to climb the stairs to see it, right? But it didn’t really hit me that it’s on the third floor.

 

Why does this matter? Because I’m almost 50. My knees and my ankles and my legs are Almost Fifty. Who gets older and thinks, “Wow, I should move somewhere that makes me climb even more stairs that I do right now.”

Who does it? Well, me, apparently. I do. Apparently the thought of lugging groceries up to the third floor didn’t cross my mind, or carrying the 20-pound bag of dog food – or being dragged by the leashed 45-pound Lab, for that matter.

I just did as I do – I fell in love with the apartment, the deck, the view, the garage, the fireplace … and signed on the dotted line.

I guess that’s one way to get my 10,000 steps in every day.

 

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It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

50 for molly3

Part of a sporadic countdown to 50

67. (It’s only fitting that I end the brief break from the countdown with 67 days to go – as in, ’67 was the year that really got this countdown started …)

There have only been a few times I’ve let my age bother me.

I was fairly traumatized by 25 because I was a whole quarter-of-a-century old. As a kid you don’t really think of your age in relation to a century, but 25 – that’s a different story. That’s a common fraction and you are that common fraction of a birthday most people never see. You’re 25 percent of your way to 100.

Thirty bothered me only temporarily before the actually birthday – but once it arrived I realized 30 wasn’t so bad. It’s like once you lost that “I’m 20-something” attitude, people started taking you more seriously.

Then the 40s came, and I wasn’t too disheartened at all. A co-worker was once amazed when I wrote a blog for work about having had to go to driver’s school – not because I shared my penchant for speeding tickets with the public, but because I included my age. But as I neared 45 – and my first mammogram – I suddenly started wishing I was younger. Or that they’d moved the recommended age of the first mammogram to 75.

Tools to Get You Through Your Colonoscopy.pngA new fear has replaced the mammogram fear, and I’ve made the irrational decision to talk to friends and relatives who have been through it.

At 50, it’s highly recommended that you have a colonoscopy.

Yuck.

From what I’ve been told, the procedure itself is simple. You’re given anesthesia, and you wake up an hour later and it’s over. But the 36 hours before it?

No. Just … no.

I was the recovery buddy for a friend, and saw how loopy she was when the procedure was over. Both she and another friend have offered to give me a ride to the hospital and be my recovery buddy after, but have both assured me they won’t be with me during the prep period.

“Trust me,” says my friend who just had hers in January, “you won’t want anyone there for that. You won’t even want your dog there.”

Oh. Goody.

Wanting to get a more medical explanation of what to expect the night before, I turned to WebMD (yes, I know I work in a hospital …), where I was cautioned to “stay in the bathroom — bring something to entertain yourself, like a book, television, or laptop.”

Ummm …

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Some things get better – right?

50 for molly3

Part of an ongoing-but-irregular countdown to 50.

75. Everyone talks about how things start to get more difficult as you age: losing weight, exercising, reading without glasses, finding your car keys, remembering just why it is you walked into a room or opened a closet door. I get all those – and fully agree with all of them.

But there are a few things I really hope get easier as we age.

  • Budgeting money – I’ve never been a financial whiz, to be sure, but learning to live on a budget – and to say “no” to myself – has become a priority to me since my divorce 15 years ago. Part of it comes from the fact that until three years ago, I didn’t have any credit cards – we gave them up as part of the divorce proceeding (never mind) and I never got another one until recently. Truly living on what you have is an eye-opening experience. I’ll admit to splurging a bit when I finally did break down and get a card, but I’ve tempered that part of my brain with the, “but if we save we can go places!” philosophy (Ireland, here I come!). So far, so good. It’s still tight, I still cut things out of my budget to make room for other things, but, as they say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
  • Budgeting time – This one comes a bit harder to me. It’s no secret that I tend to spread myself a bit too thin (that came up twice in my performance review at work) and – more times than I’d like – I run late to personal events and outings. I think one of the reasons I don’t go to a lot of movies is because I worry about being late. Mostly because I usually am.
  • Dating – While this will certainly make a best-selling book someday, dating in my 40s was … interesting. There were a few relationships and an awful lot of awful lines from potential suitors (“I’m getting tired of the five-knuckle shuffle” or “Like most redheads I bet your [sic] built like a brick house”) or from those who I actually went out with (remember the gross, “I’d like to put my skin boat in your tuna chute”? Still makes my skin crawl.). I swear I’m hearing more bad come-ons now than I did before I was married.
  • Living – This one definitely gets better with age, at least I think so. I gave up home ownership seven years ago and really, really like renting – the idea of someone else picking up the tab when the water heater dies, or the air conditioning goes out is quite appealing. And right now I’m in the middle of another transition – moving from a building where I’m kind of embarrassed to have first-time guests visit – the smell of marijuana is overpowering, litter in the yard is off-putting, the broken front door and burned-out hall lights slum-looking – to a secure building where, theoretically, “shit gets done.” Living better to me also means enjoying life, being happy – you never know when you won’t get another tomorrow, so enjoy today. That’s what I try to do. Live with no regrets.
  • Finally figuring out why I really did go into that room – Yeah, I doubt I’ll figure that one out, either.

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Goodbye, my youthful attributes

50 for molly3

Part of a daily countdown to my 50s.

  1. There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to in the coming decade – I’ve had a lot of personal growth and I see more of it coming – but there are definitely some things I’m going to miss. Hell, I’m missing a lot of them now.
  • My eyes. It’s been about four years since I got tired of squinting at the TV trying to see the score of a football game or moving my phone around just so I could read a text without difficulty and decided to go to the eye doctor. I was expecting glasses, but I wasn’t expecting bifocals. Those are for old people – you know, people whose kids are grown, who are … oh. Nevermind. I’ve gotten used to using bifocals, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to admitting that I have them.
  • The ability to stand up without noise or difficulty. I used to love sitting on the floor – I’d turn down a chair in favor of the floor if there weren’t enough chairs to go around, and I spent many Sunday afternoons playing solitaire on the floor. I could stretch out, lean against the sofa or a wall, it was all good. Now, I cringe at the thought. Getting up from the floor now means using the sofa or the wall as a brace to help boost me up. Low-sitting chairs and sofas are the same. Part of it is due to osteoarthritis, but I know age plays a part, too.
  • Not knowing what osteoarthritis feels like. I had just done a story about a woman who’d had surgery for OA and thought how painful it sounded. Then I went in to talk to my doctor about a constant pain I’d been having in my knee. I did have a torn meniscus, he said, but we couldn’t do surgery because of advanced OA. Yippee.
  • My memory. I’m not at risk of Alzheimer’s, but I have to admit I find myself sometimes telling a story and I get to a point where I just stop and … it’s gone. The word I was going to use has disappeared from my brain.
  • Being the youngest at the office. When I started my first journalism job in 1989, I was the youngest person in the newsroom. Despite working at a newspaper with somewhat of a revolving door – it was good training ground for rookie reporters – I managed to stay the youngest, or among the youngest, for quite some time. Now I find myself working alongside coworkers who are the same age as my children. It’s … humbling.
  • Being able to have just one drink too many and not have a headache in the morning. This one needs no explanation, really.
  • My metabolism. Why can you put five pounds on in a week, but it takes a month to take it off? I blame new math.

There are more, I’m sure, but I’ve forgotten them. And I need to spend the next three minutes trying to stand up so I can go switch my laundry.

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The backside of 40

Funny-Old-Woman-smokingIn a few short hours – less than three, actually – I will officially end the first half of my 40s and get started on the back half. I say “officially” because I’ve not yet decided whether I will accept what the calendar says or simply remain 45 for as long as I can get away with it.

I have, through the duration of my 40s, proudly exclaimed how wonderful this decade was. I found myself. I discovered new things about myself. I accepted myself for who I am, and realized that in reality, I’m a pretty cool person to know. I’ve flirted with the gym, quit smoking, ended a 30-year relationship with Diet Coke and vastly improved my eating habits. I built strong, lasting relationships with my kids and guided them into adulthood, ready to spread their wings. I’ve reconnected with those I thought I’d lost, and have a renewed sense of reality about lifelong relationships I had mistakenly put on a pedestal.

In short, I’ve lived.

I expected – and was fully prepared – to spend the last half of my 40s the same way I’d spent the first, enjoying life as it happened.

Then came May.

I have no misconceptions about aging. I know it happens to the luckiest of us, in some way or another, and we can choose to let it happen gracefully or fight it. For the most part, I fight it. People ask if my red hair is my natural color and I smile and say, “Yes, and no. This is my natural color, but not all of this color is natural.” I don’t color my hair, I just refresh the red. I’ve been blessed with the fair skin of the Irish and, somehow, have managed to keep my face smooth and young looking – people are often surprised to hear I have a child who is 17, and they are really surprised when I mention her 21-year-old brother. I look at myself and think back to when my mother was my age and know that I am not my mother’s 45.

But May – May had something special in store for me. A lot of somethings, actually.

It started early on in the month, when I began to notice a greater difficulty reading scores on the TV or even some street signs at a distance. I went to the eye doctor in late April expecting to get a stronger prescription for my reading glasses and was given a different kind of prescription: for bi-focals. And yes, I opted for the invisible line. The glasses came May 3, a Friday.

That following Monday, May 6, I got a text from my Man/Friend – his pregnant daughter, due at the end of the month, went in for a doctor’s appointment that morning and was told they were doing a c-section that day. The baby, an amazing little girl, has stolen all of our hearts. She is simply fabulous. I posted a photo of me holding the beautiful girl on Facebook, where a friend promptly asked, “Does this mean we can call you Grandma Molly?” Ummm …

A week later my son turned 21, and my daughter and I were summoned to pick him up from the bars his co-workers took him to for celebration.

A week after that, my daughter – my own baby – graduated from high school.

Then I worked with a photographer on a special project at work and discovered I knew his parents – I worked with them a decade earlier when this photographer, now a married professional with two small children, was still in high school.

If I didn’t know better I’d swear May was a month full of Mondays.

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