October 1, 2019

Age is but a Number

By Mary Schricker Gemberling

“Age is an issue of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

… Mark Twain

I recently read something that struck a chord with me. “When you’re young you have time and energy, but no money. When you’re middle-aged, you have energy and money, but no time. And when you’re old you have time and money, but not as much energy.”

It’s not that I really feel old, but I do think a lot these days about my age. When I look in the mirror, I notice wrinkles and age spots that I am sure were not there last week. Even though I can still work most of the day in the yard, mowing and gardening, I have a harder time getting out of my chair in the evening when it’s time to go to bed. I can’t sit on the floor and play with the grandkids without wondering if I will be able to get up without assistance.

A few years ago I decided I didn’t want to wear sleeveless clothes and bare my wrinkled arms, and I am not ready to stop trying to replicate the hair color of my youth although I do admire my friend Marilynn’s beautiful grey hair….if only that was my natural color. In choosing my shoes I struggle between something my grandmother would have worn and something that is comfortable that does not hurt my feet. My granddaughter recently asked me why my teeth were so yellow…I immediately started using a whitening agent. I try to stay on top of the chin hairs but every once in awhile I find a stray that I’ve missed and wonder just how long it has been dangling there.

I have also noticed that with age comes heightened emotions, and sympathy is replaced with empathy. Through years of adversities, we can better understand the suffering of others and feel their pain. Old songs, signs with meaningful quotes, funny greeting cards, and grandchildren’s comments can swiftly bring me to smiles or tears. Sometimes I find myself making negative comments about the behaviors and attitudes of the teens of today. There are days I even sound a bit like my parents and grandparents did when I was a teen?

I am actually blessed with relatively good health and in addition to a minimum number of prescriptions, I do take vitamins and other supplements. In order to make sure I don’t forget, I fill up the little pill boxes labeled with the day of the week. It’s not that I have a memory problem, but in case one develops I will be ready. I use those little sticky notes for the same reason. I know I probably won’t forget, but just in case I do I will have it written down. We never really know when the memory is going to start to fade? After all, I haven’t been through this getting old thing and don’t always know what to expect.

This afternoon, however, I was reminded that, ‘Age is but a number.’ Gary and I drove about 20 miles to the town of Mt. Pulaski to visit with his cousin Sandy and her mother Donna Jean. Sandy’s husband Steve and his mother Vera also joined us. We met at a restaurant called Farmers, who had good old fashioned down-home cooking. After a delicious hardy meal we adjourned to Donna Jean’s house to continue our visit.

Much of the conversation was catching up on the whereabouts and happenings of other cousins, and kids and grand-kids. Sandy and Gary, both in their seventies, are just a few years apart in age but had spent quite a bit of time together as children. A few stories were shared about Gary’s mother and other family members who had since passed. The conversation was lively and interesting, and we spent much of the time laughing.

And of course, as we were departing, we promised to get together more often. I had never met Vera before and had only been around the others perhaps three or four times in the years I have known Gary. But I felt fully engaged in the conversation and enjoyed myself a great deal.

If you are paying attention and are at all good at mathematics, you should have figured out by now that Donna Jean is probably around 90, 91 to be exact. Actually she and Vera are both 91 years old. The remarkable thing is that not once did either of them have anything negative to say about anyone, living or dead! How refreshing! Never once did I hear any reference to the ‘good old days’. They were in the here and now, asking questions, listening intently, offering funny stories and enjoying the afternoon. And did I forget to mention how nice both of them looked? Talk about classy and well-groomed!

After spending the day with these remarkable ladies, I am no longer feeling old. Heck, I have twenty years to go before I am their age, and I have a lot of living to do. From now on I am going to try to focus more on the sunny days, the good deeds, and the wonderful people around me! And even with all my wrinkles, grey hairs, age spots, and chin hairs, if I am half as beautiful as these two ladies when I am 91 years old, I will be content.

Mary, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist, is the author of three books, The West End Kid, Labor of Love; My Personal Journey through the World of Caregiving, and Hotel Blackhawk; A Century of Elegance.