The lost part of turning 75 on Labor Day is easy to write. Obviously, my youth; the good health I took for granted; my career; my children when they were young and in my care; even my grandkids being babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who loved to be read to sitting on my lap – all of that is behind me. I have lost my parents and all of my aunts and uncles. I have lost people I loved from my generation. Now, I am the matriarch on my side of the family.
The lost part of turning 75 on is easy to write. Yet, I hope I have found the perspective and patience to look forward rather than to wallow in the misery of the present.
When I look in the mirror, which I try my best to avoid, I realize I have lost my beautiful, dark hair. Now, it is thinner and would be mostly grey if I didn’t color it. My trimmer figure is definitely lost, as is my unwrinkled skin. Instead, I see my mother’s face and the dark under-eye circles I inherited from my father. My husband and I spend a ridiculous amount of time doctoring. Twisting awkwardly when getting up or carrying a heavy bag of groceries throws out our backs. My younger grandkids ask why my hands have so many veins sticking up. I struggle to remember names, although I know if I don’t stress over this problem, they will float into my head eventually. Yes, turning 75 is no picnic.
I remember as if it were yesterday when Nana, my mother-in-law, turned 75 and we made her a surprise party at my house. And the celebrations we had to mark my parents’ 75th birthdays. Life was simpler then. Even for my parents, who lived in Detroit, it was easy for all of their children and grandchildren to gather to mark the occasion. Because they had summer birthdays, my kids, who were in graduate school and college in 1996, came to Detroit for my father’s party, and again gathered in Detroit for my mother’s celebration in 1998. At this point, the oldest two came with their significant others and the youngest was still in college. My point is that, for all three celebrations, their children and grandchildren were all there.
Even without the pandemic, which makes a real celebration impossible, I know my children and grandchildren would have struggled to figure out a date and place for such a party. So that’s a loss. I remember thinking that 75 was a huge birthday for our parents. My father-in-law died at age 57, so we thought making it to age 75 was something to celebrate. We continued this tradition every five years and were lucky to be able to celebrate 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays for three of our parents. I understand that my birthday will go by uncelebrated, and this is definitely a loss I have accepted. Maybe we will Zoom or FaceTime our kids and grandkids, but (like so many other occasions we have been unable to celebrate this year) Covid-19 has made what would have been difficult in normal times impossible this year.
This has been a pretty glum meditation thus far. Time to turn to what I have found. That would have to include the wisdom and perspective that come with many years of experience. Life is calmer, quieter, and much less stressful. When I was younger, I used to fanaticize about the 1973 Italian movie A Brief Vacation. In it, a woman with young children, whose hectic life included a disabled husband and difficult mother-in-law, came down with tuberculosis. She was sent to a sanatorium in the Alps to recover where she met other patients who treated her with kindness, civility and respect, as well as a handsome fellow patient with whom she had an affair. How could she return to her former life? Well, now I’m having that vacation I craved when I was younger (minus the affair). Since retiring, and especially with the pandemic restrictions, I have time to read and write and think. I have found great joy in blogging. My husband and I get along very well, so spending this extra time together is a blessing.
We moved from our home of 45 years to a condo in May, and we quickly adjusted to an easier life style. While we dearly miss seeing our kids and grandkids, we have taken advantage of summer weather to meet outside with the ones who live in town as well as with friends. We zoom and communicate with long-time friends who live out of town, probably more frequently than when we actually saw them in person. Because it is so much harder to connect, we have found making a greater effort to keep in touch is very rewarding.
With time to reflect and separate myself from the chaos of my life prior to retirement, I found new ways to occupy my time. I even wrote and self-published a book when I turned 70. This birthday will not be a repeat of that accomplishment, but it is a time to think back by writing memoir pieces and look forward to the time when we are free from the current pandemic. How much sweeter will it be to be able to (fingers crossed) celebrate my grandchildren’s milestones starting this spring/summer after having lost so many. Since March, I have missed six of my grandkids’ birthdays and all of their year-end performances and celebrations (which didn’t happen). I am hoping to be able to be there to celebrate the birthdays that fall in the summer and beyond, as well as important milestones like graduations, recitals, performances, and in-person visits. This summer, I hope to celebrate when three of their parents are turn fifty. Did I mention I am old?
Writing this made me realize how many priceless moments I have missed since mid-March. Losing a year of my life at my age is nothing to dismiss. Yet, I hope I have found the perspective and patience to look forward rather than to wallow in the misery of the present. At this stage of life, I have found that parts of the serenity prayer make sense. I will try to accept the things I cannot change. Politically and personally, I will have the courage to try to change the things I can. Hopefully, at this age I have the wisdom to know the difference.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.