Tag Archives: aging

Woman of a Certain Age

Thankful to have two teenagers still at home, including my son, who especially likes me to smile.

Thankful to have two teenagers still at home, including my son, who especially likes me to smile.

Last night, I leaned down to kiss my 88-year-old mother goodnight, and she suddenly looked surprised.

“My! You’re getting older, aren’t you?” she said,

I kissed her forehead and said, “Yes, Mama, we’re getting older together.”

When I shared this on Facebook, my friend Tami responded, “Hasn’t it been said that ‘women of a certain age’ shouldn’t lean forward because their skin sags forward and exaggerates the wrinkles?”

Apparently, the concept of being a “woman of a certain age” has a colorful history, not all of which applies to me. The in-your-face humor that many “women of a certain age” adopt isn’t exactly my style either. Furthermore, I’m not thrilled that “women of a certain age” is linked on the Internet to words like CT scans, lumps, estrogen, colonoscopy, and osteoporosis.

I do, however, appreciate Tami’s reminder that I’ve reached “a certain age” where it’s more important than ever to hold my head high and keep a smile on my face so the skin won’t sag forward and exaggerate the wrinkles—and so the wrinkles will end up in all the right places for that matter.

I’ve already learned the importance of a smile, and I understand that carefully and deliberately choosing my thoughts is the secret to maintaining one. The hard part is keeping my head up. I often catch myself hunching over with my head down, fighting back tears of defeat and frustration over the fact that I can’t rewind and recapture my own youth, much less the youth of my children who are growing up fast and establishing lives of their own.

Maybe that’s the point of the verse, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2). If you’re “at a certain age,” lift up your eyes and seek help from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He is the one who helps you. And besides, it keeps the skin from sagging forward and exaggerating the wrinkles.

You’re Not Old…You Just Look Old

200275404-001We don’t agree on who actually said it, but we do agree on what was said. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but my dad probably made some comment about being old.

“Grandpa!” Chelsea chirped (my version). “You’re not old! You just look old!”

It took her several years to figure out why we all laughed. She was slightly wounded.

I still remember my father’s expression of amused chagrin. Over the years, my own amusement transformed into something closer to his chagrin. I do my daily ten-minute workout, search endlessly for “hip” clothes, try every length of haircut, carry a modest-sized purse, and maintain a slight tan.

But when I look in the mirror, I just see old—threads of gray highlighting chocolate brown hair, veiny hands, soft skin barely clinging to my neck, and the first sign of jowls. Realistically, there’s nothing I can do about it. Anything I try won’t make me look young. It will just make me look different. And I don’t want that.

Obviously, old is what my children and their friends see, too. I can’t just join a conversation between my daughters and their college friends without being reminded, at some point, that I’m the mom. The more I try to be one of them, the more obvious it is that I’m not.

The funny thing is, my kids seem to think I’m beautiful. They like those shadows of age that enshroud me. My sage appearance comforts them and makes them feel safe.

My children don’t even realize I’m aging, because to them I’ve always been old. To me it’s a new thing, but not to them. As far as they’re concerned, I am who I’ve always been—timeless, the way Bing Crosby and Katherine Hepburn and Debbie Reynolds seemed timeless to me when I was young. Timeless and agelessly old.

Crosby and Hepburn and Reynolds hardly seemed to change through the years, because I never saw them as anything but old, which is how I saw my parents as well. To me, that meant 50. No one really got much older than that.

When I look at old albums of my parents and their contemporaries in their teens or 20s, I still see that glint of ageless wisdom they had in their eyes at 60, 70, and 80. And it comforts me.

Getting old may simply be growing into that timeless wisdom the way you grow into your mother’s shoes. In your mind, you grow up a lot sooner than that. Finally fitting into the shoes is just a formality.

To me, I’ll always be 32. To my children, I’ll always be 50. At least we agree on one thing.

I am who I’ve always been.

This Is Not A Sandwich

SandwichsmallThis blog post was the beginning of my realization that the empty nest stage is uniquely challenging and often overwhelming. I cannot walk this path alone, nor can I continue pretending that I’m unaffected and that nothing has changed. It’s time to embrace optimism, but it’s also time to be honest.

Nothing could have prepared me for this. I’m glad I didn’t see it coming. Ignorance wasn’t bliss, but it was better than this.

I vaguely remember reading about the Sandwich Generation. Apparently, 1 in 8 Americans over 40 is raising children and caring for aging parents at the same time. Between 7 and 10 million adults are caring for aging parents from a distance. One commentator even divided the Sandwich Generation into categories:

Traditional – caring for children and aging parents
Club Sandwich – caring for children, grandchildren, and aging parents and/or grandparents
Open Faced – caring for anyone who is aging

No mention is made of aging, struggling, or health-challenged siblings, friends, or pets. Neither does anyone acknowledge the crushing stress that comes from knowing help is needed in five different places at once while knowing you’re helpless to provide it.

When it becomes apparent that someone you love is dying on some unknown but certain schedule, the grieving begins at once. And it continues indefinitely beyond the actual loss. An increased sense of helplessness is inevitable, but there’s more to do than ever.

You aren’t the one dying (at least not that you know of), so you try hard not to acknowledge your personal pain or paralysis. Work and kids and barking dogs are just constant reminders that you’re useless to those who need you most and that you can’t alleviate anyone’s suffering, including your own. Not to mention the bad EKG five years ago that you never followed up on. So you continue running in circles, trying to catch snowflakes before they melt. The word “deadline” takes on a whole new meaning. You’re well aware that more of life has slipped away every time you meet one.

This is not a sandwich. It’s a vice grip. My husband and I cling to each other, largely in silence, as the grip tightens. There isn’t much to be said, and it’s hard to breathe anyway. For us, it’s been slowly tightening for about eight years. Every vision of future happiness—weddings, grandchildren, the annual return of spring—is overlaid with the gray of imminent loss.

Maybe it’s frowned upon to acknowledge personal suffering. But God does. Why else would He reveal His future plans so vividly in contrast with current realities?

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21.4.

I’m holding out for when a lifetime of current realities become the former things.