Aging Together

How do you explain aging to a 30-year-old? It is, after all, something you have to experience.

On the other hand, you could learn from an “old” or, as I like to call it, an “aging” person.  Most of us –see what I did there?– are more than willing to share what we have discovered. (Caution: If you start us talking, it is tricky, in most cases, to get us to stop)

I pondered this quite a bit earlier this year as we saw our wonderful Eeyore-we called him Sorske most of the time- come to the end of his feline life journey. I often compared us, he struggling to breathe and I walking with arthritis pain.

We both used tried and true survival instincts, mostly unconscious, such as moving around, eating, checking out the weather on our iPhone. (I made up that last one. Sorske never got the smart phone concept)

I learned a lot from him because he kept doing the cat things like sitting in front of my recliner waiting for me to pick him up or finding some very hidden place to curl up for a nap.

On one of his very last days he did a very familiar thing, a poignant moment for me

Sorske helping

He came over while we were putting together an IKEA cabinet, walked out on the box and “offered to help.” I grabbed my phone to make sure I got the shot above.

It may sound cliché, but aging is not easy. Things that got us here like exercise, weight control, keeping humor intact, are harder and harder. One way I do it is to remember the last 6.2 miles of every marathon I ever ran. It was a lot more fun before I hit that wall but the race is a race. 20 miles isn’t the end so I didn’t stop.

Does all this help to understand, young people?

 

Aging can be painless

A few years ago I performed a wedding in a couple’s rural New Hampshire home. It was simple and meaningful and I felt good about it.  Not too long after that, one of them posted a story about getting their license and deciding how and where to be married. In the article she referred to me as “…the elderly justice of the peace…” Now, I would like to say that I don’t dwell on disconcerting comments about my age and indeed it wasn’t too long before I forgot it but it did, in fact, bother me. After all who wants to get old,  especially when that means that time is more likely to be running out? I am sure there are plenty of older people who are coping better than I but let me run some thoughts about aging by you.

Almost everyone I have asked agrees that they don’t feel their age. Sure, when trying to jog across a busy intersection or stoop over to pick up something dropped on the floor, the physical reality rears its ugly head but otherwise we feel as young as ever. That’s a good thing especially when younger people don’t reject you based on numbers of wrinkles or gray hairs. Of course, lots of them do but I know hundreds who don’t. Forgetting what year one is born in and simply being oneself works wonders.

Ally Waters who graduated from high school with my son, Joseph
Ally Waters
who graduated from high school
with my son, Joseph

Another important thing to remember, as macabre as it sounds, is that we all die, some earlier and some later. Things like not smoking, watching your weight, eating less junk food, and exercising every day are critical. However, it is not that such activities will protect you from dying, it is they will most likely make living more fun.

Fun, indeed plus joy, excitement, anticipation, love, these are things that make aging painless and they are not that hard to find anytime, anyplace. I have a silly cat who expects to be lifted to the table every morning when I sit down at my computer so that he can look at the window. Then after he accounts for all the chipmunks he turns around and starts a loud purr while he reaches out and touches me on the shoulder. Now, tell me, how in the world can you think about getting old with a pet like him around?

Image

 

Another thing to do is engage people as you go about your day. When I ordered a couple of pastries at Starbucks this morning, I asked for them to be put in a bag to which the twenty something barista responded “Oh, you don’t want me to throw them at you?” I had a rejoinder but that didn’t matter. What really counts is that she felt she could say that in fun.

I don’t remember exactly when I first really, really got that some day I would no longer be here. I do recall it was an adrenalin rush like none other. It turned out to be OK though because it sparked in me a subtle but actual new appreciation of the days that I did have while I am still here.

Andy Rooney, the wonderful 60 Minutes curmudgeon was interviewed after his retirement. One of the questions was “Do you think about dying?” His answer is classic “Yes and I don’t  like it.”

And so it goes