Category Archives: Aging

Life Transitions

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected
Robert Frost

We never really notice them, until we do.

We move through the early years of our lives almost seamlessly, understanding the changes that occur but viewing them as nothing more than another transition. Some are more dramatic than others, even life altering, at times. But we move on, knowing there is something up ahead, another phase in our lives. A transition from childhood to adulthood. For some it may include marriage and children. For others a career, a new business, a divorce, health issues, grandchildren, travel and even loss.

But while we’re young, or younger, there is always tomorrow. There is a confidence of tomorrow that is somewhat tempered as we age. We don’t live in fear because that type of life is not really living. We just understand the reality of life. I’m more aware of my mortality at 65 than I was at 35. That’s not morbid, it just is.

It’s the reality many people refuse to speak about. People think about it but can’t seem to verbalize their feelings. Even if they did, no one would want to hear it.

I was watching a baseball game the other day with my grandson and we were talking about this young player who is in his early 20’s. And it occurred to me that this player might have a career that lasts twenty years. It also occurred to me, though I hope to live a long healthy life, that I may not be around to see the end of his career. That’s not morbid, that a reality I never thought about before. I’ve watched sports my whole life and that single thought has never crossed my mind.

I’ve transitioned from from my youth to adulthood. I married, have raised a family and have been blessed to see my children begin their own families. I was fortunate to have a good career and I’m now retired. I’ve transitioned once again but I understand that what’s behind me is very different than what’s in front of me.

That being said, I know that I will never be any younger than I am today. In many ways, I am living the youth years of the rest of my life. I don’t know if that makes sense to everyone but it does to me. It has to. Because there is much more to see, much more to do. My mind understands the number and how many trips I’ve had around the sun but it continues to rage against the machine.

I don’t know where the next transition will take me, I only know my eyes are always open.

Just know that if I become famous in my still unknown second career, I will remember everyone who hits the like button on my posts.

 

 

 

 

The Art Of Simplicity

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”
 John Kabat-Zinn

I was watching the Grammy Awards the other evening and aside from the fact that it seemed to be a requirement that all women wear an outfit that was cut open from neck to naval, the ceremony was pretty much as it has been for many years now; part talent, part extravagance and part freak show.

But what caught my attention the most was how simple it is for real talent to be expressed. If you possess the gift of a pure voice, you can captivate an audience without thirty-two dancers, extravagant costumes, pyrotechnics, gimmicks or relying on the shock factor.

If you can sing, people will stop and pay attention. It’s that simple. Everything else either detracts from the talent or attempts to cover up a lack of talent.

Then I thought about how that same principle applies to our lives. As Confucius once said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

I think age sometimes allows us to understand that concept more clearly. Because at its core,  life really is simple. it’s our individual choices, decisions, influences, words and attitudes that complicate things. We just can’t seem to get out of our own way, even when someone hands us the directions.

We are infatuated with the accumulation of stuff. The brilliant mind of George Carlin did entire routines on this very subject. We laughed because we understood he was talking about us and yet we were incapable of stopping.
We think and over think. We accumulate and store. We find the easiest path and decide there must be a better one. We look out the window and want that color grass. We strive to achieve without considering the cost. We find peace in the simple beauty of a sunset on a quiet beach and decide it would look better if there were thirty-two dancers performing in extravagant costumes on a party boat just off the shore line.

Somewhere, Thoreau is dying a thousand deaths.

The most amazing moments we have all experienced in life; the ones that stay with us forever, are never planned and usually the most simple.

We each have a voice and a song to sing. How we choose to live that song, is entirely up to us.

Loneliness

There was a sad, yet heartwarming story that came out of Rome yesterday. Police responded to a call after someone reported crying and shouting coming from an apartment. When police arrived they were met by a couple, Jole who is 84 and her husband Michele who is 94. They have been married for 70 years.
The couple was not upset because a crime had been committed, but because they were overcome by loneliness and the depressing news they had been watching on television. Apparently they had not been visited by anyone in a while since much of the city empties out during the summer months and neighbors were on holiday.
In an attempt to make them feel better, the police stayed with them, cooked them a simple spaghetti meal and spent the evening listening to stories of their lives.

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Loneliness affects millions of people, especially the elderly who are homebound and unable to participate in society the way they once did. A recent study claims that while only 18% of the elderly live alone, 43% felt lonely. That’s a difficult statistic to read.
Whether someone has lost a spouse or has grown old together, the way this Italian couple has, advanced age can take a toll on your life, even if you are relatively healthy. We all know people in the 80’s and 90’s who remain very active but the majority of those who have lived that long have lost most, if not all of their friends, and what remains is a time in their lives that most people don’t remember.

While age alone does not corner the market on loneliness, there is an isolation for many older people which doesn’t offer them an opportunity to alter their lives. Phone calls and visits certainly help but much of their day involves little or no human contact. The difficult truth or realization for many is that life has moved on without them. They are no longer part of a working society, have given up their cars, and rarely leave their homes except for medical visits. The independence of living alone that many elderly people prefer to have, comes with a cost that most of us can’t imagine or prefer not to think about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What they know and see is confined to the walls of the rooms that surround them and like this couple in Italy, those walls seem to get closer each day.

We celebrate age with parties and photos in the newspapers of people who have turned 90 or 100 and it is quite an accomplishment. The experts tell us that advances in the field of medicine will allow people to live longer. But there is a difference between living and being alive. All of these people were alive once. They lived active and full lives; had families, jobs, hobbies, and were most likely surrounded by people on a daily basis. I don’t think they ever thought about loneliness.

We all know people like Jole and Michele. Sometimes we see them out somewhere or sitting on a porch or at a window, watching life go by as we pass. Sometimes a wave turns into a smile, sometimes a smile into voice.

At the end of the day, we all need to believe that our lives have a voice.

 

Stones Upon Stones

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them.
They move on. They move away.
The moments that used to define them are covered by
moments of their own accomplishments.

It is not until much later, that
children understand;
their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories
of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones,
beneath the water of their lives.”
― Paulo Coelho

There have been many things written about the relationship between parents and their children but these few lines encompass so much of that journey, simply because it moves across decades of change.

Parenting is a lifetime voyage and I don’t think we fully realize that when we’re young parents. We’re too busy being in the moment of day-to-day craziness to think about having twenty or thirty or forty-year old children.

Then, a couple of breaths later, we’re there.

How we handle that transition is encapsulated in the first line of Paulo’s words. More times than not, we have difficulty letting go. As young parents we don’t believe that will be an issue. Idealistically, we plan on giving our children roots and wings and encourage them to live their lives as they see fit. But twenty plus years of habits are sometimes hard to break. We have spent, until it’s time to allow them to move on, the better part of our adult lives guiding them, instructing them, encouraging them and caring for their well-being. Our emotional investment in our children cannot be overstated, simplified or pushed to the curb because a certain age or time in their life has arrived.

So what do we do?

We try to adjust. We sit on the side and watch instead of instructing. We attempt to bite our tongues instead of questioning or suggesting. We try to not offer unless we’re asked and even then we temper our comments. Because of our life experiences, we sometimes see the mistakes well before they do and while our innate reaction based on years of protection come to our lips, we understand the lessons of learning to ride a bike without training wheels apply to adult life as well as childhood.

But it’s difficult to watch sometimes and even more difficult to remain silent because, as with most relationships, you just never know how a positive suggestion or comment might be interpreted. With children, those feelings or concerns are magnified to the highest possible levels for all the obvious reasons.

When you become a parent, it’s a lifetime commitment. It never leaves you, it just changes direction, places you on the sidelines instead of on the playing field. Your concerns/worries are always with you but your voice during those times are sometimes held in, and I suppose that’s how it should be. Still, it’s hard to not give in to your natural instincts, of protecting and defending, regardless of age..

There is an old Yiddish saying, “LIttle children disturb your sleep, big ones, your life.”

 All children who become parents understand at some point. It never goes away.

When Did This Happen?

I turned 65 earlier this week.

Sixty-five.

Even when I write the number instead of entering digits the surreal feelings don’t change.

I remember when I turned 30, (just the other day), and I felt as if I wasn’t young anymore. My twenties were gone and thirty was the age of people I was told not to trust. At least that was the slogan in the mid sixties.
Turning forty never bothered me but fifty was very strange. I associated the age of fifty with my parents and aunts and uncles when I was younger. They were old. I wasn’t. This couldn’t be me.

Except it was.

Then the years just seem to add up. Sixty came and went and I accepted another decade, laughing at the absurdity of what I saw in the mirror. When did that happen? Where did that come from? Where did the hair get thinner? How does your body seem to change overnight? Really, overnight.
I always tried to stay active. I used to play basketball, baseball, softball, racquetball and tennis regularly along with an occasional bad game of golf. I still walk four miles most mornings, except when the cold weather kicks in. However, now when I play a game of basketball with my eighteen twenty-one year old nephews and sons-in-law, i find myself bent over more times than not searching for another breath of air as they make the usual jokes. Keeping up with my grandchildren is another challenge since seven and eight year old boys were born without a pause switch. Right now my  two five-year old and thirteen month old granddaughters are more in my league, though I’m guessing the art of negotiating some down time with them will end relatively soon.

The problem is my mind is not in sync with my body most of the time. My mind sees things that I should be able to do, my body reacts to the challenge and then speaks to me the next day in an angry tone reserved for the I told you so crowd. That’s okay. I can deal with the voices in my head as long as I can still maintain some semblance of competition. It’s better than having a sideline seat.

That’ll happen one day. Just not today.

But here’s the really strange thing for me about turning 65. I now carry a medicare card in my wallet.

That slapped me in the face more than turning 30 or 50, because now you have an identifying piece of paper that tells everyone you’re over a certain age. I can’t even sing “When I’m Sixty-four” with McCartney anymore.

Medicare.

That’s just crazy and I’m having trouble getting my arms around that one.

My mother-in-law is 90 and she has a medicare card. How can we be in the same category? When did that happen?

I associate medicare with older people. I know what you’re about to say. Don’t even go there.

My mind is usually stuck at twelve. I still love to play juvenile practical jokes.
I will go to a party and cut out and eat the middle of a cake before dessert is served and wait for the overreaction from my daughter when the cover is removed.
I teach or tell my grandson’s things my daughters wish I didn’t. Hey, it was their decision to leave me alone with them. Some people just don’t understand that who could burp the loudest at a meal is actually an athletic event.
I love limericks. The riskier the better.
Drawing with chalk on the driveway is so cool and walking in the rain, splashing in puddles, diving in piles of leaves and sitting on your front lawn waving to people in a bathing suit during a two foot blizzard snowstorm is what makes life fun.

And I have a medicare card?

In the words of Toby Keith…

“I ain’t as good as I once was
but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

I guess I can deal with that.