Have you heard the saying, “Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart?” When you are in your teens, twenties, thirties or even forties, getting old isn’t even on your radar. Then seemingly overnight you begin to see the first signs….a few gray hairs at your temple…wrinkles around your eyes and mouth…that pickle jar that just won’t open no matter how hard you twist. Laughing it off you hope that by not acknowledging it, the inevitable aging process won’t happen to you.
We all know that’s a fantasy and while some are naturally blessed with a graceful aging process, others run into it full steam. I’ve noticed it most when I see someone I used to work with. Grey hair has won the battle over their natural color. Their wrinkles are significant and they walk and act like old people. Is that what happens when you retire? Do you age overnight?
Old people are my grandparents’ age. Not me or my friends, yet the signs are there and have been for a while even though I don’t feel old until I get up from a chair and have to stand still for a minute because my knee has stiffened while I’ve been sitting. Or when a few hours of pulling weeds in the yard means I can hardly walk the next day. Or when I suddenly realize that I’m no longer happy to take the parking space at the far end of the lot and actually keep circling the lot until I find an empty space close to the door.
It’s happening to me now and on those thankfully still rare days when I am in a lot of pain for whatever reason, I can see the day on the horizon when I will be as familiar with the pain relief aisle of the drug store as the back of my hand. My friends and I are already spending more time talking about medical issues than any of us would ever have thought. Will someday I be one of those people whose social life revolves around medical appointments?
Here is the thing about aging and it’s tied to something I have written about before. Checks and balances. You can’t have good without having bad. It’s the same with getting older. There is a lot about getting old that stinks but there is also a lot that’s good. People give up their seat for you and open doors for you. You get discounts at grocery stores and retail stores. Some cities have a dedicated “senior” center and dedicated recreational programming. Neighbors offer to shovel your sidewalk for you. You’ve seen enough of life to make better decisions and the younger generations look to you for advice even if it is from an old person’s point of view. That’s all great, but it’s not what’s best about aging.
A couple of weeks back I met a lifelong friend for lunch. We live about two hours apart and only see each other a rare few times a year – a pattern interrupted by COVID. Sitting across the table from her, I realized the best thing about aging.
When you have aged, the friendships you have developed along the way have also aged. Those friends, who you may not have seen in months or even years, have gotten older along with you and when you get together again, you pick up right where you left off the last time. They know who you are as a person and not just the person you show to strangers. They can laugh at you and with you in the same moment and never judge you. They understand you and whatever you are going through. That kind of friendship is only developed over a lifetime and if you are lucky enough to have one, then you can handle anything that aging throws at you.
I am blessed to have many such friends. Some are actually family members and others, like the friend I mentioned, are ones I have made along life’s journey. With these people in tow, I know that as I age, I can face it head on.
So here’s to getting older my friends and doing it with grace and dignity with your friends at your side!