What does it mean to be old? Yesterday I heard an advertisement for the Senior Games. Anyone fifty or over could participate. Just having had my 50th birthday, I was a bit dumbfounded and a little astounded that I now qualified as a “senior.” I shared this with my oldest son, Drew, who is the still in the green stage of a banana’s life. He’s twenty-seven. Drew assured me that I am not old and that I look so young that his co-worker mistook me for his wife when looking at his Facebook page. Drew then laughed and corrected her, “Can’t you see the resemblance?” He thinks we could be twins. I guess since he is taller than I, we can’t call him my Mini Me, but saying we could be twins is a little bit of an exaggeration, as well – with the age difference, you know. Even so, I was touched and flattered.
The next day, as I sat cross legged in the recliner with my pink earbuds peeking from my ears, I listened to my guided meditation that I start each day with. The coffeemaker perked its mantra in the background, and the music and voice on the recorded seduced me away from this early morning world. It was 5:45 a.m. and the sun was just yawning outside the window. Mike and Alex were still in bed, and my dog, Sid, was still snoozing in her crate. Then a sound, not foreign, but foreign for this time of morning interrupted this peaceful transcendence. It was my phone signaling to me that I had a new text message. My first impulse was to jump from my chair. Who could want me this early in the morning. Did I even know anyone who would be awake? And was it an emergency? No, if it was an emergency, they would call. Just continue, I told myself, it will wait. The rest of my meditation was spent trying to ignore the distracting reminder that I had not checked my message. When the music stopped, I turned off the Ipod and went pulled the phone out of my orange flowered purse.
New Message from Trisha, it said. I pushed on View. “Can’t sleep. I m up n drinkin coffee. I know wat it means to b old now.” Before we go on, you have to know that Trisha is thirty-eight, single, and hangs out with a lot of people younger than she is. She dresses trendy and has a very active social life. I have always found her a lot wittier and fun to be around than old married folks like me. But this message had me. I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was mean. I felt like her very sharp fingertip was pointed right at me and on her fingertip was printed in large black letters O L D. And it was jabbing at me. My first reaction was to spout some expletives her way. No, don’t react out of anger. Setting the phone on the wooden harvest table beside my purse, I made my way to the coffeemaker and poured my liquid energy into my favorite retro coffee cup, a gift from my daughter, who worked as a Barista at Starbucks while she was in college – college that she had graduated from 7 years ago! How old did that make me feel!
I carried my coffee and my phone into the bathroom, and as I bent my head over to wash my hair, I pondered just why Trisha would say something so mean. I mean, she’s no dummy. Surely she meant to be mean. Did she want me to leave her alone? Didn’t she want my friendship? I decided to just respond back with a bland meaningless response. I wound my towel around my head, picked up my phone and typed, “Life’s too short to sleep it away.” I hit send and started applying youth fortifying lotion to my face. I thought about my response, then shook my head. Well, that was even an old person’s response. Young people don’t think about making hay while the sun shines or saving for a rainy day. They live for the moment. I continued getting ready, made some oatmeal for my breakfast, added some cinnamon for the healthy blood pressure and cholesterol lowering benefits, and as I sat stirring in some Agave syrup, I realized that I have been getting up at 5:30 since I was in high school.
My mother started this early rising tendency in me. She decided I was taking too long getting ready in our one bathroom with seven kids to send off to school, and told me that from this time on, I had to be out of the bathroom by the time everyone else got up. Well, I was not as adept at getting ready back then, so in order to be out of the bathroom by 6:30, I had to get up at 5:30. I learned the benefits of rising early back then and I just never stopped. Ha! So there, Trisha!!! I proceeded to text her this fact. She responded, “Watch out. I m in zombie mode. Might eat ur face off. I m on Prednisone 4 my poison ivy.” I didn’t respond. And when I went to work, I avoided her office.
After lunch, I was far away in the cottony softness of solitude and quiet when Trisha walked into my office. “So you afraid I’m gonna eat your face?” She laughed. I jumped at the sound of her voice, then forced a chuckle. We started chatting, as I continued to file, and she popped the top on a Mountain Dew. We conversed about zombies, which led to drugs, then ended with telling each other the latest jokes we had heard and laughing contagiously. The phone rang, and I went to get it. She waved and headed up the steps to her office.
I decided Trisha was definitely not trying to get rid of my friendship, so therefore, her text was not meant to offend. I realized that maybe she just accepted my oldness. It is a natural thing to happen, and my oldness must not be so bad if she still seeks it out. It hit me then that maybe I should accept my oldness, too! I never thought I minded getting old till her text hit me in the gut. I didn’t think I cared if other people thought I was old. It was like Drew had reminded me, I don’t look as old as I am, so what does it matter? I would never go back to my 38th birthday and do it all over again. No way would I ever enter that deep dark forest of bread crumbs and evil witches. I have found much enlightenment in the past twelve years. Yes, almost exactly 12. Life was no easy street for me. I could never seem to read the street signs along the way. The curves in my roads were like the ones in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. They were turning every direction and quickly! Life’s road has definitely become a little straighter, the grade of the hills a little less steep and the downhill runs are easy glides. If this is what it means to be old, well, thank you, Life! I’m happy to be here. Now, time to set the alarm clock and get to bed. 5:30 comes early!