thief of time

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Getting Old

When do we actually become aware of the passage of time?

Heck, what I really mean is when do we personally become aware that we're getting old?

As I look back on my life, I find there are a few times that stand out specifically. They're almost defining moments--some of them very culturally determined, I realize, but others may just be me. Maybe they aren't. Maybe everyone has similar times.

I recently passed my 50th birthday and I have to confess that I was rather surprised that it didn't mean a whole lot to me one way or the other. I have to admit that I wasn't very impressed, but it didn't hit me the way I thought it would.

That's when I realized that in my own mind I must have already passed a major barrier when I turned 40, which really did have a major effect on me. Obviously I must have considered myself decrepit from then on.

I remember as a child watching “I Love Lucy” and finding out Lucille Ball was in her forties, which I considered incredible, as the people I knew in their forties didn’t look anything like that.

I also remember hearing about a neighbour who suffered a heart attack and died when he was about 38. As a child, I really didn’t understand when people were saying that this was so young to die. To me, as a preteen, it seemed quite obvious that he had lived a full life and that things like that were to be expected once you passed a certain age. What that certain age was, I’m sure I didn’t know, though the thinking behind it seems incredible to me nowadays.

Something very similar happened with my own children when they were quite young. My daughter was in Year 3 with a teacher that really believed in piling on the homework and I told my son that he’d have all this work to look forward to in a few years. My daughter scoffed at me, saying her teacher, who was in his midthirties, or thereabouts, would be retired by the time my son got into Year 3 (in 3 years time). How young the young are.

Another major barrier for me wasn’t my 30’th birthday, as I passed that rather stunned, having recently given birth to my first child and I was in a state of total and utter sleep deprivation spending two years in a stupor.

The really kicker was 25, as I felt that I’d just left my proper youth behind and was on a slippery slope to 30 and middle age. Wouldn’t I love to be there again!

Another time when I became conscious of my age was when I was about 20 and a young mother told her little girl to get out of the lady’s way. I can still remember my sense of outrage at being considered old enough to be called a “lady”!

Finally, the very first time in my life when I became truly conscious of the passage of time and the fact that I had passed a significant point in it, was when I would have been about 6 or 7 and we’d gathered at the front of the church to go down to Sunday School and some passing remark was made about the children, and I realized I was no longer one of the little, really cute kids, just one of a mass of older, gangly ones. This was the first time that the weight of ages pressed down on me and I have to admit that I felt a real sense of loss.

Never mind, as I press through my middle age (am I really going to live over 100?) I’ll just have to take comfort in my advancing maturity and knowledge (don’t I wish!) and get on with life.

After all, you can’t spend all your time worrying about getting old—not when there are so many people out there far older than me and living very full lives. At least they seem to be. Maybe they’re pulling the wool over our eyes just so we’ll be lulled into a false sense of security, and then we’ll get hit “bam” by old age when we’re least expecting it.

Have a feeling I won’t be one of the golden oldies. I’ll be the crotchety old lady sitting in the corner muttering about the young people of the modern era. In fact, that’s me already! See, old age has already struck.

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