Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Other Side of Sixty

May 28, 2008

Seventy isn't old any more.

Just look around you. There are young people and old people, but 70 isn't the cut-off point, as we once supposed it to be.

At some point, when put on my $14.95 glasses that I bought at the local supermarket, I noticed that the faces of my friends were covered with wrinkles. I couldn't help but wonder if they saw something similar when looking at me through theirs. Here’s the story behind those cheapo glasses – determined not to buy prescription glasses until I'm 70, I alternate between a low-voltage pair for viewing television and night driving and a high number pair for reading and seeing stuff up close. I don't wear them for lunch with friends, but I slip the high-number Ben Franklin pair onto my nose for reading the menu any time I’m in a restaurant.

A few years ago Oprah Winfrey noted on her talk show that she admired how Diane Sawyer, a few years her senior, was handling being 50. Oprah vowed before her viewers to do it as well. With characteristic determination and focus, she managed to look better at 50 than she had ten years earlier. If she maintains her commitment to staying young and attractive at the rate she's going, when she gets to her 70’s, she'll probably look about 20.

I am one who has done all she can to ward off oldness, and intend to continue even if I die trying. Don't remind me that I probably will; that's beside the point. The point is, although life is full of land mines and booby traps, its very complexity promises that it can be rewarding at any age.

This blog does not offer advice or rules of good living. It will reveal some situations you might encounter and some stories from which you might learn, but its main purpose is to explore, from the vantage point of one who is there and enjoying herself, how the other side of sixty is different and how it may be the same. I have changed my life by what is sometimes known as “The Geographical Cure” – I moved to a distant state and have begun to bloom where I planted myself.

I am well aware that at my age most people are half of a couple. Their decisions are made as a committee of two. Their investments (in time, energy and money) are also made jointly. I too have been part of a couple – three times – but have been a widow for over seven years now, and am by now beginning to enjoy my autonomy and freedom. Learning to live alone, however, is a lot like learning to live with somebody. For one thing, it's not as easy as it looks.

I had a perfectly wonderful year when I was 61. Because my birthday is in May, this spanned two calendar years – 2001 and 2002. The shattering horror that occurred during that period, said horror being when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed on 9/11/01 was made bearable by the fact that personally, good things were happening to me that year. Up until that time I had always said that my favorite year was the one when I turned 11. My second favorite year -- at least as good and probably better -- was the one that came 50 years later. There is something astonishing in that.

There is much that is hopeful in this new life. Maybe it's because 50 is the new 30. Maybe 100 is the new 90. But very few people of normal good health seem really old at 70. It may be said that those of us pushing 70 are trying too hard, but it seems to work. I will try to tell, not necessarily how you might cope, but how I have. I wouldn't say my style would work for everyone – I tend to err on the side of risk, as you will see.

However it is, it's been a good life, and today is my birthday. I'm 68. And if you stick with me by checking out this blog occasionally, I just bet you’ll enjoy the trip.


Steve said...


Nan said...

Happy, Happy Birthday!! It's really true that age is just a number. And I've always loved the Gertrude Stein, 'we are always the same age inside.' I had it on a tee shirt when I was in my twenties! I've had presciption glasses since 6th grade. :<) I love all your words. So glad I've met you.

Anonymous said...

I hope you won't mind a personal anecdote at your expense, but it illustrates your point–

Not long ago I remember a sunny afternoon when responsibilities were unexpectedly lifted and a vacant evening suddenly stretched out in front of me like an open road. Anticipating good wine, good music, & good conversation, I picked up my phone and realized my best choices were between a 27-year old college student and a 65-year old ingenue. I didn't know who should feel prouder when I called, you or me. I can't say I remember how the evening turned out as thankfully there were many. I only remember I wasn't disappointed.

Happy Birthday, Mary Lois.

Mary Lois said...

It's nice to know I'm still an ingenue...if I still am, three years later. A flattering story that makes me feel warm all over (which is good because it's a little chilly here, believe it or not).

Thank you all for the good wishes.

Anonymous said...

MARY LOIS .....HAPPY lucky we are...we are almost the same age...and what a great life we both had, SO FAR...and I cant see it changing any either. Oh sure, we don’t look the same as when we were 40...but that’s not important...what’s important is NOW (THE NEW ADVENTURES THAT LIE AHEAD).

Our choices for happiness were good reason to change that. (ILL HEALTH – that has its way of spoiling things.) Taking the right meds can fix that too.

Looking back on my life, it feels like I had many a child, the war (scary times ), the 1950’s, THE HAPPY DAYS -- the 1960’s were happy but challenging, just married and Viet Nam...the 1970’s, raising the kids and going to fun places...the 1980’s...boating and going to fun adult places and retiring from trucking...the 1990’s, retired, moving to Delaware and having my own limo buisness...and watching my children get married off. 2000’s...years working for Dover Air Force base...and seeing the sadness of war...AGAIN.

AND THEN THEY INVENTED THE COMPUTER..and finding some of my old friends. I thought were lost forever. NEW ADVENTURES AHEAD --they will be good ones (CAUSE WE WON’T HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY).