"Don't Get Old!"
If you know me in person, chances are you knew Gram - or if you didn't know her personally, you at least knew *about* her. My grandmother passed away two years ago at the age of 99 - and if you ever commented to her (before she died, of course) how impressed you were that she was still kicking at her age, her inevitable response was, "Well, my sister Mary is 103. And she still has all her own teeth!" Gram was more impressed with Aunt Mary's lack of crowns and dentures than she was with her longevity. (And by the way, Aunt Mary outlived Gram!)
Indeed, as much as she loved talking about Mary's teeth, her all-time favorite story was short and simple: "Don't get old!" She told everyone - and I mean *everyone*: You, your friends, your coworkers, her doctors, their nurses, other patients in the waiting room, pretty much anyone she spoke to. And it wasn't that she was in poor health - she lived alone (in a senior-living apartment building, with people around to check on her) right up until the day she fell and broke her hip and went to the nursing home to rehab, but at that point, she was ready to go "home," as she said while pointing up at the ceiling. She moved slowly, but she always reached her destination eventually. Her mind was sharp, for the most part. She was in excellent physical health for someone her age, even if her teeth weren't all her own. But for the last 10 or 15 years of her life, if not longer, she complained about getting old. Things weren't as easy for her to do as they used to be. She couldn't go anywhere on her own (she voluntarily gave up driving somewhere around 90). People didn't come to see her as often as she liked, and her friends numbered few and far between as the years passed - she outlived almost all of them. She'd always been feisty, but the last couple of years, she was ready to go. She was a retired nurse, and in her day, when someone broke a hip, it was a death sentence - never mind that in her case, her hip healed perfectly, and there was no reason she wouldn't have rebounded; in her mind, it was over. And I suspect that was what she wanted. She missed my grandfather, who'd passed away in 1987, every single day. The morning I got the call that she was gone, I immediately pictured their reunion and imagined - with happy tears - how they were spending their first day back together.
I think about her often, and we still tell Gram stories - God knows she gave us plenty of good material, usually inadvertently. I thought about her a lot yesterday, after my yearly physical, at which I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, told that I'm getting closer and closer to being put on thyroid medication, and referred to a podiatrist, among other results. I drove home mulling all of this over, especially coming on the heels of breast cancer and a hysterectomy, and I heard Gram's voice, clear as a bell: "Don't get old!" And I had to laugh.
I'm at an age I never, ever imagined when I was younger (because, let's face it - when you're in your twenties, anything past the age of *gasp!* 40 is a big, black void), and so I'm in a physical condition I never, ever even thought about. Fortunately, I'm blessed that as of right now, I'm healthy - it's just that things are starting to go, as they do with age. Kind of like an old car. I'm mobile, but I'm stiff in the mornings, and my knee hurts, and things crack, and I can't seem to push myself upright from the floor without making some sort of groaning sound (because, you know, those noises help!). I'm not as thin as I used to be. My hair is now mostly gray beneath the artificial blonde. I can't wear high heels anymore. I'm not OLD, but I'm not young, either. Sometimes it feels like a weird place to be. And then I hear my own voice say the words I always said to Gram when she told me not to get old: "Consider the alternative!"
I'll get old. And I'll be happy to do so. I'm just not going to do it easily.
Have a great weekend!