I cried the year I turned twenty-nine. I boohooed and made such a big deal out of the last year of my twenties. “I’ll have to be grown up now and learn about mortgages. I’ll have to stop wearing short shorts and start acting more mature. Should I cut my hair?” These are the thoughts that swam through my mind as a young mother of two and looking back now, I wonder why I wasted the last year of my twenties on such foolishness. Turning thirty did not end my short shorts days.
Ten years later, remembering my silly response, I stated that thirty-nine would definitely, absolutely be the year I became a real adult. I had one year to prepare myself for the forties, which everyone knows is the hallmark of maturity, the pinnacle of wisdom and sophistication. My forties were filled with my children growing up, me finishing graduate school, and having a mortgage. I felt mature beyond my years, but my shorts were getting a little longer, and I started buying readers at Walgreens.
Thankfully, there was no angst the year I turned forty-nine: only a peaceful resignation that time marches on if you’re lucky. Silently I marched into my fiftieth birthday with wonder and awe, and in true Boo fashion, my husband surprised me with a special gift.
We celebrated quietly at home with a home-cooked meal and a delicious strawberry cake made lovingly by Boo. We were sitting at the table having just finished cake when a phone started to ring. It wasn’t my landline phone, the ring was coming from one of my yet-to-be-opened birthday gifts.
“Where is that coming from? Why is my gift ringing?” I questioned. “Boo! What did you do?”
And with that, I ripped the paper off of my gift, which was a beautiful UT Texas orange, flip phone. My first, very own cell phone. “Hello?” I said.
“Surprise!” my daughter yelled. “You got a cell phone! Happy Fiftieth!”
Not only did turning fifty bring me a cell phone and other wonderful gifts, but it also brought me a huge red zit on the side of my cheek. The location made it unable for me to disguise, plus it hurt like heck.
Welcome to your fifties, it said! You thought you were over teenage acne, but alas, you’re not grown up yet!
Not long after my birthday zit, I had to have a hysterectomy and began hormone replacement therapy. What is happening? I’m not old enough to be over zits but too old to have children. Fifty-one brought me a nice reprieve.
Turning fifty-five or The Double Nickel, as Boo calls it, was like getting a bonus. At fifty-five you are considered a Senior, at least AARP says you are. IHOP, Chili’s, and McDonald’s want to give you freebies or discounted menus and even car rentals want to give you 10% off. There’s quite a list of establishments that want to help you save money. So, I ended my fifties on a high note by retiring and starting what some might refer to as living my best life. (in capris, not short shorts)
When I heard that sixty was the new forty, I held onto that as I slid perilously into the big six zero. But sixty-five brought with it all kinds of stuff that was hard to ignore. For one thing, those dang Medicare phone calls started, and the commercials. “Call this number NOW!” All of a sudden my mailbox was flooded with advertisements for walk-in bathtubs, electric stair chairs, and even more discounts for seniors. Was I now a true senior? A senior-senior? As the fliers for Medical Alert Systems and adult diapers kept flooding in, I realized that I’d made it. I was NOW a mature adult. Grown-up to the max. The day I signed up for Medicare I felt as if I were in a barrel about to go over Niagara Falls. No turning back.
And so it is as I approach my seventieth year of life.
My mother was only thirty-three when she died. I am immensely aware of my good fortune and blessings to have lived such a life as I have. Her early death is not lost on me as I reflect on all she missed and the fact that she did not have the opportunity to grow old. It is a privilege denied to many.
I know the true meaning of when you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything. I used to lament about my hands, saying, “I’ve got my grandma’s hands! Arthritic, wrinkled, and veiny.” But, these hands have held my children and grandchildren and they’ve reached for Boo to steady me in life. They’ve made meals, graded papers, planted flowers, and held the hands of loved ones who have passed from this earth. I’m proud of them and all the ways they’ve shown up for me. My hands tell the story of a life well lived.
So, on May 1, 2023, I will quietly arrive at my seventieth year of life, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Gladly, I have not squandered this year worrying or plotting. I’m neither afraid nor embarrassed. I am simply humbled and very grateful.
And as for the short shorts, well I had a good run. It doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore, and if seventy doesn’t say “mature” I don’t know what will because eighty is the new sixty and twice as fun as forty.