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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

On those age numbers

Yesterday my mother turned 87.

I tried to talk to her the night before but she was busy going over Spanish questions with my niece who lives with her, in preparation for mid-term exams (interesting in itself as to my knowledge my mother doesn't speak any Spanish at all). And that was interrupted by call from another grandchild who needed help with an essay.

My mom said that by the end of the day she was pretty sure she could write at least three high school exams.

The day of her birthday she got up and drove my niece to school. Then she swung by the church and did whatever you do when you are on the altar guild. She then spent to rest of the day talking to other grandchildren and friends. When I tried to call her several times throughout the day she was out. God knows where and undoubtedly not using her walker like she is supposed to.

When I did reach her she told me she has a lot to be grateful for. Everyone has turned out, except for one of two who were almost there but she was sure would be just fine (I am smart enough not to ask who, in case one of them is me).

It is very helpful to have a parent who shows you how to age.

My mother once described being old as sitting in the waiting room waiting for your flight to be called. If that's making her sad she doesn't show it. She says she's not dying until my niece graduates from high school anyway and so that's that.

She never starts a sentence with "at my age" and more or less proceeds as if she is about 40.

She has dealt with aging by deciding to ignore it, despite a series of major health crises, and she just treats those as times out. 

My mother does't like to be bored. She has a great mind. As we always say even when it's bad she still finds it interesting.

We are not going to get her to slow down or sit down. I think are all coming to terms with the fact she is going to keel over at some point on her way to a kid's swim meet or some other activity that involves someone else.

I have been thinking about this lately as it has suddenly occurred to my husband that 60 is in fact not the new 30. His psoriatic arthritis is catching up a bit and we have more or less accepted that he is going to have both hips and maybe a knee replaced at some point. And last week he and his boss volunteered to go speak to some kids at a high school career day and HR sent someone who was half their age instead.

And like many men he is considering the reality that his career is going to take new directions, involving part-time work even, rather than being the go-to guy. He has had his turn being that. This is just starting to sink in.

He will be fine of course once this all settles into his mind and he retools - something he is really good at.

I am not sure women, or women like us, go through this the same way. I personally am already behind about 50 years in my projects and have no fears about what I am going to do when I retire.

But the thought of what to do when you hit the day when you realize there is actually a waiting room, or you see your age in someone else's eyes, is an interesting one.

I have thought this over at various points usually around 3:00 a.m. and this is what I have figured out.

Best thing to do is just forget the numbers.

Just forget them. Put them right out of your mind. Listen I teach 20 year olds who are already older than I am.

You aren't as old as you feel, you are as old as you do.

Keep doing, or in my case, keep sewing.

That's quite the back log I have stored up.

Off I go.


Karen said...

Totally agree with you that as you age you have to keep doing. I am Dutch but live in the Philippines. Here older people with a bit of money have live in household help, so don't have to lift a finger if they don't want to. So I see them all aging much faster as they let their helpers do everything from getting them a glass of water to brushing their hair etc. My relatives in Europe aged much better as they had to continue to do as much as possible themselves for as long as possible. As I age I hope that I will be a fun old lady like your mother, who younger generations still want to hang around!

Mary Deeter said...

Great observations Barb and happy birthday to your Mother! My husband retired and I continue to work full time. Retirement for me is probably not in the cards for 3 to 4 years, depending on the economy. I'm okay with that, yet still there are days when he's just leisurely rolling out of bed for coffee and the paper as I'm scrambling out the door for another long day, I think retirement might be fun. He tells me "It's not all it's cracked up to be." I'd still like to give it a shot, but it does make me feel grateful to have a job I love (most days). It helps me to keep amassing that fabric stash I need to keep me busy when I reach that "waiting room".

Anonymous said...

You might find this book wothwhile: "Counterclockwise" by Ellen Langer. It makes a scientific case for not "acting your age."

Donna W said...

Mary Demeter....your husband is right....retirement is not what it's cracked up to be...but it can be enjoyable. Someone said to not long ago...you don't look your age and you certainly don't act your age..how do I act..I have never been this age before,
Barb...I think those thoughts on nights when I can't sleep. I just say to myself well at least I am awake and thinking. Happy Birthday to your Mom. She sounds like a fantastic lady.

patsijean said...

I have a friend who has been talking about aging for the last 10+ years. This year she declared herself an "old woman" at the age of 60. I'm 10 years older than she. At age 60 I was trying to figure out when middle age began, even though I am not as physically strong as she is.

BeccaA said...

Happy Birthday to your mother; she sounds like a great lady who is aging gracefully. That is how I'd like to be at her age.

As for your husband's psoriatic arthritis--some unsolicited advice. I have been reading that everyone with an autoimmune problem also has a problem with gluten. He could try a gluten-free diet for 30 days and see if it helps. If you're interested there is a ton of info available on the internet about going gluten-free or adopting the stricter autoimmune paleo approach. Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now and go back to my sewing.

Phnip said...

You are so fortunate to have an amazing mum to show you how it's done. Mine died two years ago at a stones throw from 90 having spent the last three decades saying "it's keeping going that keeps you going" and always taking the stairs and being involved in lots of things and is remembered for being such great fun. We are going to a funeral next week of a 67 year old man who retired two years ago and just sat home and ate himself to obesity and when I asked if he wouldn't like to go for a walk he replied there was nowhere to walk to. I don't really know what he'll be remembered for except perhaps his weight. I am the same age which is the scary bit. I can tell from the way you write that you have a good attitude and that'll get you very far.

annie said...

Right on!

Anonymous said...

I think these are my new mantras:

She never starts a sentence with "at my age" and more or less proceeds as if she is about 40.

She has dealt with aging by deciding to ignore it, despite a series of major health crises, and she just treats those as times out.

My mother does't like to be bored. She has a great mind. As we always say even when it's bad she still finds it interesting.

Excellent philosophy.

Linda T said...

Your Mom sounds like my late mother--always busy--with something or someone. Her favorite sayings about aging-- "I want to die with my boots on." meaning he was in the middle of doing something... and "I'd rather wear out than rust out." No "just sitting" for her. I tend to be like her and I'm not sad about it. Just keep moving....

Mrs. Smith said...

My mom is 57 and talks as if she is 75. Drives me insane. How you age is SO influenced by your mentality and I just shudder at her ageing herself this way. My GREAT grandmother was born in 1921 (passed in 1997 when I was 17). As a little kid I remember her being "so old" while her neighbors were still out living life. I don't want that for my mom! :( so I just love the way your mom thinks!!!

textilogist said...

I really enjoyed your reflections - the ageing thing - while not pre occupying me full time - comes into my thoughts from time to time. Having now moved up into the 50-54 age group on forms, I am definitely looking around and collecting stories on getting older and living well - this has bee added to the collection.

Carole Mellin said...

I'm 72 and play tennis twice a week. Yesterday I lost to a pair of ladies, one 87 and one 81.

Wendy said...

Yes, but keep after her about using that walker! My mom died because she didn't.

Jacq C said...

I love this post so much. We're dealing with some complex health issues with my inlaws and have reached the stage where having a vehicle may not be an option for them - I'm very aware of the impact this will have on their limited independence. We're trying so hard to ensure they don't give up - not helped by the amount of 'at your age' comments they're getting from well-meaning friends and family. In total contrast a 76 year old aunt was telling me yesterday about the Christmas cards she's making for charity - recycling old cards she's been given - she knows it's early to start but 'she likes to be busy, creative and help others' - I love her attitude - keeping on keeping on.
Birthday wishes to your Mum x

lsaspacey said...

Thank you for this. I am 45 about to turn 46 in a few days and feeling very old and over. No "real" career, no owned home, no husband. Sometimes I feel it's too late for all those things. I know that's ridiculous but those thoughts keep coming. I need to get myself back in the game