Thursday, June 21, 2007

When I'm 64...

When I get older losing my looks,
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine...
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you...
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride...
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage,
In the Isle of Wight,
if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee,
Xander, Jack & Eve...
Send me a postcard,
drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer,
fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

So, being a boomer, I’ve been half-listening, this evening, to a 2-hour PBS program called The Boomer Century. Yeah, truth is, in some ways it was pretty good (e.g., right now we boomers are paying 60% of the income tax in this country, and no one volunteers more than we do)...but at the same time, I found the program sort of depressing. I doubt that I’m the only boomer who was thoroughly creeped out by blond, 50-something Dr. Cynthia Kenyon (man, I hope she’s 50-something, and not YOUNGER than that), who waxed eloquent and got almost misty when discussing the work she and others have done on doubling the life expectancy of C. Elegans (that's actually just plain ole’ roundworm to you and me), and the possibilities of extending that work to humans. When she said 90 might eventually be the new 45, I almost spit Blood Orange Italian soda across the room. I thought of what a friend of mine said about the sudden preponderance of Viagra in the lives of Boomers: It’s like hanging new flagpoles on condemned buildings... (sorry, guys).

I’m 57, and most of the time, although I wish my knees were younger, I like being 57. There’s a trick to learning to accept and enjoy your age, but it’s a simple trick that anyone can learn. Each year, I simply consider the alternative...NOTE: staying young is not the alternative; being DEAD is the only alternative that I know of. It probably helps that I had a sister who died young; whenever I start to feel sorry for myself for anything having to do with aging, all I have to do to snap myself out of it is think how much E would have loved to have lived to be 60, or 50, or even 40, for that matter...

My mom used to say she didn’t want to live beyond 75. The first time she said that to me, I was probably in my late 20's and she was in her middle 60's, and appeared to be in good health. Shocked, I asked her why she’d said that. "That’s a long enough life," she said, "And I don’t ever want to be a burden to anyone."
Still, when she turned 75 and her oncologist told all of us that she would certainly not live to be 76, I could see that she’d had a change of heart since she’d made that statement in her 60's. At 75, even though she was sick, she loved her life, and hated to leave it. I’ve heard of dying people being cold, and even mean, but she wasn’t like that. She stayed for as long as she could, for the most part remaining cheerful to the end, and then she quietly left. We should all have such grace.

So here I sit, at my keyboard at a little after midnight, at age 57, thinking about how all of us like to put conditions on aging, as if we had any real control in the matter...we have some, but a lot of it is simple luck...many of us bluff, blithely saying things like, "Unless someone can promise me that I’ll have my wits about me to the end, and my own teeth, etc., etc., I don’t want to live to be 100..."
And yet, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t all kids at heart, shouting those things out loudly from a safe distance, only to take them back as we approach the place where it’s our time to step onto the ice floe...

Dylan Thomas knew a thing or two about aging, so I’ll close with his beautiful sentiment...

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Yeah, I agree with that. The prospect of Alzheimer’s and Depends and Dr. Kervorkian rather than Doc Martens depresses me. My style is more...well, put it like this...I have this idea that when someone someday (a LONG time from now) asks Xander, "So how’d your grandma die?", it’ll be more fun for everyone if can say, "Well, she missed a turn and flipped the Maserati..."


Theresa Williams said...

Then there's that song, "My Generation": "Hope I die before I get old." But look at those singers now!

Tammy said...

Age is all in our minds and most people want to live. It always bothered me when people look at amputees and say I'd rather die than lose my legs. I don't think so!

Drive carefully grandma! XXOO

Lisa :-] said...

There's a Kaiser commercial on the radio these days that says 50 is the new 30, and 70 is the new 40. Okay. I'll go with that. I certainly don't feel as old as my parents were at my age... But there are times when my kneew and my arthritic hands tell me exactly how old I am in the morning...

Still, I think our job is to live until we die. I don't want to wish away one day that is given to me. Though I realize that we poor puny humans have no control over what condition we will be live those last days in...