Back in March I mentioned the April A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a post every day except Sundays starting with the letter A and ending with Z. I knew then I couldn’t write 26 posts in one month. So I’m challenging myself to use the alphabet to motivate my next 26 posts. Of course, this may take more than a year or two. Who knows. So here it goes:
A is for aging. It’s something we all go through if we don’t die young. We notice it more readily in someone we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s amazing to run into an old high school friend after twenty or thirty years. We think, “God, he’s aged.” Then wonder if he thought the same about us.
What I find mysterious is how it sneaks up on you. The inward aches, pains, creaks, and groans grow on you. But the outward appearances? You don’t realize something’s different until it has changed drastically. While doing yoga a few years ago, I remember glancing at my legs as I performed a downward dog. The skin on my thighs hung loose around my knees. Did that happen overnight? What happened to the muscles residing there? I never heard them say good-bye. And I didn’t notice my jowls or turkey neck until looking at photographs taken during Christmas shortly after I turned fifty. How long had those been there? Why didn’t someone warn me? I used to pluck stray gray hairs poking from my head until one morning there were too many. If I continued plucking I would go bald. Did I cause the gray to multiply? Was the old saying true that if you pluck one gray many more follow?
Bette Davis once said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” Boy, was she right. No matter how resilient you think you are, the signs of aging are shocking when you gaze in the mirror and find them staring back at you. Worse still, it’s knowing you can’t do some of the things you used to take for granted, like squatting down and being able to get back up, or opening a jar of jelly, or reading fine print.
Harder still, is watching loved ones go through it first, especially your parents. To watch my father, a once tall, strong, football player, shrink in skin that bruises easily, his hearing aid not doing its job. and see my mother, once a beautiful cheerleader, shuffle her feet as she walks, forgetting what day it is, brings tears to my eyes. I cry every time I leave their house, knowing their time here is limited. Where did the time go? How did old age get here so fast? I have to keep slapping myself, saying, “Stop crying. They’re not dead yet. Cherish what time is left.”
I guess I’m crying for what’s been lost: my childhood, my youth, the days when I could go to Mom and Dad for answers, to fix things. I cry because I’m helpless to stop time, and I’m frightened. I’m afraid of what’s next. I can’t imagine my life without my parents. I know, people survive the loss of their parents all the time. Some even survive the loss of a child. But how do they do it? What is their secret? Maybe I’m just a big baby. But I’m also scared of what old age will do to me. Will I lose my memory? I’m pretty forgetful as it is. My mother used to joke about the saying, “Live long enough to become a problem to your children.” Seems only fair especially after putting both of my parents through hell during my teen years. Will I become a burden? I don’t want to do that to my daughters. Watching your parents fade away is painful enough.
All I can do is plan ahead. I’m weeding though junk, especially papers, trying to organize documents, so when the time comes my kids will be able to find what’s important and have less of a mess to sort through. In the meantime, I’m trying to control my emotions. If I allow sad thoughts to consume me I become crippled, paralyzed with pain, no longer living in the present, wasting what precious time remains. I need to hold on to the memories and release the sorrow, and relish each moment I have with the ones I love.
To keep me in a positive frame of mind, I post affirmations throughout my house. Two on my bathroom mirror remind me: “Don’t wait for a crisis to discover what is important in your life” and “Be thankful for the past, have courage for the present, and faith for the future.”
A is not only for aging, but also for affirmations. Affirm what’s good in your life, everyday, for you never know when it is your last.
What are your thoughts on aging? How do you deal with your own mortality or that of a loved one?