By the time you read this, I will have hit a major milestone. On May 22, I turned 60 years of age, a number so daunting I find it even hard to type.
For those of us baby boomers who came of age when questioning authority was second nature, itís almost unfathomable that I am now the authority I once resented, that mine is now the culture I once felt so counter to.
After all, does it make sense to you that Mick is Jagger is 70 years old? Gloria Steinem, 80?
That retirement now looms large often does not register in my consciousness. Iím offended that it sometimes takes two ooomphs! to get up off the couch; that my kids find it hilarious when I stop in mid-sentence ó ďHoney, did you know that ...Ē The second half of the sentence is gone ó just like that ó having evaporated into in that mysterious repository where all my other half sentences reside, I suspect, along with all that repleted estrogen, ditto collagen, and, too, heaps of misplaced reading glasses.
How can it be that I have six decades under my belt (and over it) while inside I feel like Iím 45, maybe 47? How can it be that my momís been gone 14 years now, my dad eight, that my brothers and their wives are now grandparents; that I could someday in the not-too-distant future envision myself as ďGrandma?Ē
I wince when I watch commercials geared toward seniors and their ďactive lifestylesĒ pushing supplemental Medicaid insurance, Cyalis or help with Low-T. (Wife: ďDid you do your pushups today?Ē Husband: ďPrepare to be amazed!Ē) Iím embarrassed even for the actors. Whether itís gazing at the majestic Grand Canyon with the ubiquitous golden retriever or donning life jackets for the canoe ride, there is nothing even remotely recognizable in these portrayals of people my age.
Of course, I donít recognize myself either when I look at the mirror. No matter how much one works out or how little one consumes, nothing seems to stave off ruthless power of gravity. Thatís not resignation; itís the truth.
And yet, turning 50 for me seemed more tumultuous. In my 50s I tried to defy aging: buying clothes where my then teenage girls shopped, exfoliating my skin raw. I took my running way too seriously, falling twice, suffering a mild concussion and then a broken finger.
Still, in my defense, I was never more proud that Iíd recovered from both injuries in time to run my first half marathon last year.
I also consider it an achievement that Iím two-thirds of the way through the empty nest ó a hollowing-out-of-the-heart experience that so walloped me I wasnít sure when Iíd feel whole again. That I now can walk by those empty bedrooms without my throat constricting (Iím even planning on turning one of them into an office/study) is real progress.
Iím not sure I can put my finger on why, but thereís a certain calmness about turning 60 that past birthdays lack. The older I get, the less anxious I become. I have less to prove. I feel less obliged, less concerned about appearanceí sake, and ó this part I especially love ó I donít fret about making conversation at cocktail parties anymore.
While we do rehearse couplesí names on the drive to parties, I no longer feel pressured to overcome my inherent shyness. And if my proclivity to people-watch from the sidelines offends you, Iím sorry. (Not really.)
By now, I figure Iím not going to win a Pulitzer and thatís more than OK. I define my success as being able to do what I love and love what I do for more than three decades. Most people would kill to be able to say that.
Plus, priorities change with age. The older I get, the more evidence I accrue that life can change on a dime. Thus, the knowledge that it only takes one dark mass on an X-ray, or one swerve on the expressway, or one undetected cardiac blockage makes every single day precious. Every one of them.
In the last week alone, Iíve been told Iím a great mom, and got to enjoy all five of us ó my husband and our three daughters ó spending a long weekend together in downtown Cincinnati for my middle daughterís graduation from Xavier University.
We swelled with pride, laughed like mad and cried when it came time to say goodbye. Saturday thereís a small, family-only birthday gathering hosted by my brother, which is just the way I like it. (See paragraph 10.)
Some people might say itís luck that Motherís Day, graduation day and my birthday all fall close together on the calendar. That may be true. But call it luck or providence or fate: This is my life at 60. And, my, oh my, is it ever grand.