Sunday, September 21, 2014

Turning 65 Years of Age

     The essence of turning 65 is the difficulty of remembering enough of the years to count them in any meaningful way.  The years have been dropped like pebbles and stones into a wide-mouthed glass jar. Counting them becomes a game of estimating.  The stones, like years, are not equivalent.  Some years are even lost, nothing meaningful or worthwhile; no stone added to the jar that year.  Other years are so huge that their heft bespeaks of births, of deaths, of marriages or of acquisitions.  As I look backwards I wish I had been one of those people who kept journals or ledgers, who recorded where they found this stone and that one and what I had learned in the hunting, in the passing in the accounting.

     Never-the-less my jar of years is worth spilling out across the rug, mulling over the significance and the feeling of collecting.  As my dear friend said, "I feel the same at the age of sixty-five."  I have to agree.  I feel like I am looking at the world with those same eyes of my four-year-old self.  The one whose fingers got jammed between the high chair and the table in the Skyroom of the the Denver airport on my 4th birthday.  I see the planes, the movement of sleeves across my vision proffering napkins as the tears fell.  I feel the compassion of my mom and dad and sense that the incident was something that I would recover from fairly effortlessly.  I see those things just as I now see the white embroidered sheets and the gleam of light off of my computer screen and know that I can recover from most losses and that I am loved.  The eyes fool me into thinking that nothing has changed, that I see the world the same and therefore feel the same.  Yet, and yet, 65 is not 38.  My mother died at the age of 38 of polio, her jar pint-sized compared to mine.

  I began to think of my grandmothers, my great grandmothers and beyond.  Which ones lived past my age and which came up counting short?  My dad's mom counted stones to 30 and my mom's mom to 81.  Right now I fall in the middle of my closest maternal count of years (see the chart below), half not living until 65 and half living beyond 65.  The archaic sounding names of  Lucretia and Lavenia reminding me that only a few generations back medicine and circumstances predicted an average age in the 40's, while my life expectancy is expected to be at least in the 80's.  My older maternal relatives surpassed their average age by a huge measure of luck.    

     When I turned 30, I remember thinking that if I died at that age, I would have done enough.  I had co-written a math book, had a successful career and a good education and seemed to be in a happy relationship.  How very wrong I was.  Now at 65, I am wiser. Since the age of 30, I raised a wonderful child, started a school and had a thousand worthwhile relationships.  I am and am not the same person that I was at 30.  I'm glad that there are so many more stones in my jar.  I regret my failings that caused grief.  I regret the many losses.  The stones that carry these years of pain are heavy like a heavy heart.  They take up considerable room in my jar and remind me not to waste space in such manner again if possible.  Other smaller and lighter stones are crossed with intricate tracings, pleasing to the eye and the heart.  Years worth counting.  Turning 65 I am happy with my jar of stones however many there are.

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