The Golden Years

After commiserating with my blog mates who felt my submission was a little down, I decided to review what I wrote.  What I realized is that this last week I was surrounded by some very sad news, sickness and accidents of three people very close to me.  When I wrote the following, I had awakened in the middle of the night and couldn’t get my friends off my mind.  Two of them suffering from disease and one from a terrible fall down a flight of cellar stairs.  Perhaps my mind was focused on the negative.  Lying in the dark room like that allows the demons to come to the forefront and I believe my piece, though admittedly a little down as a result, was actually a true reflection of where I was at that particular moment in the night.   Those thoughts tend to soften with the light of day and the need to look toward the future.    Wally reminded me that I don’t carry around that bleak of an attitude most of the time.  I did try to insert some comedic relief even at that hour of the night.  Thanks for your understanding.  I believe we probably all have our dark moments when our defenses are down and there is no one around to bring us up.

This may be a little rambling as my thoughts on this topic ramble from one day to the next. Maybe it is my mental state or my inability to focus on any one thing at a time.  I don’t claim that this is how all folks in their 70’s think or feel but perhaps some others can empathize with my plight.  There is a lot on my mind.  In fact my mind becomes incredibly active around 2 to 3 AM.  It is dark, scary, I know the boogie man is probably under the bed waiting for me to drop my arm over the side.  Funny how things I used to fear as a child come back to haunt in those glorious golden years.  It is in those dark hours that the demons that have been hiding through my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s come out  unleashed and unhindered to play with my mind.  Those are the times my worst fears seem most reasonable without the light of day to dismiss them.

I am soon to be 74.  My immediate family all passed by their 74th brthday, so naturally I have some trepidation about this upcoming birthday.  I feel as if my world is shrinking.  That doesn’t terrorize me or anything, it is just factual.  Raised in a large Italian /Welsh family our holidays consisted of 15 to 20 kids, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents yelling and laughing, singing and arguing at dinner.  That was the norm. It felt safe, comfortable, and predictable.  I liked that.  But now, being the last living member of my generation or above it seems lonely. Holidays with the 3 of us fall kind of short.   I can’t even call my brother and ask him if he remembers the time Aunt Eleanor dumped the pasta on my dad’s lap or was it Aunt Edna?  My family stories are fading and I have no one to run it by for verification.  So the size of my world is shrinking.

But it is more than that.  My body is unable to do things that I am sure I did just a year ago. That is unsettling cause it means my mobility or my stamina has shrunk as well.  As you grow through the decades of your life your body becomes better at things. Things you were incapable of performing in your 20’s somehow become easy in the 30’s.  Not true of things you did easily in your 50’s.  They suddenly become monumental in your 60’s. Or at least that is how it is in this body. I used to be 5’7″ tall but all of a sudden when I visited the doctor in my 70’s I have shrunk (I must admit my shoe size increased in all honesty).  Actually senior citizen maturity does have benefits, maybe because it is harder getting up out of a chair, we tend to be more reflective, more patient, less judgmental.  In the past, if my kids said something upsetting I would lunge out of my chair and go on a rampage- you know the  kind….I walked 9 miles to school in the snow, or we didn’t have phones to tell us how to get to places, we had to learn how to read maps.  You get the idea.  But now because I have to push up on the arms of the chair, make sure my legs are under me and then take a few moments longer to straighten up, the drama of “flying” out of the chair to make a point is replaced out of necessity to reflect on things before opening my mouth.  So perhaps patience and reflection are more features of immobility than wisdom!

I have no grandchildren.  I can see how they would certainly increase the size of your world. I don’t wish I had some, my kids just never married.  If I had grandkids I would probably be up at 2 AM this morning wondering what their lives would be like.  Would they have water to drink, clean air to breathe, flowers and wildlife to enjoy.  Better I don’t have any!  I guess I just have to get used to the world I am in now, shrunken as it is, it is all I’ve got.

I wrote this 2 years ago, just thought I would include it.

I’m already 71 years old

     the “Golden Years” so I’ve been told

But gold begins to lose its shine 

     somewhere around 59!

Hair’s the first that goes

     followed soon by achy toes.

Thumbs and wrists hurt next

     and other joints that used to flex.

Indigestion and heart burn pills 

     needed nightly to ease those ills.

Blood pressure and cholesterol rise

     despite my doctor’s endless sighs

Not to mention liver spots…

     who the Hell needs old age blots?

Now the memory starts getting weak,

     Check the  fridge for the keys I seek

Who knows what’s next to make me “blue”

     ’cause inside a year, I’m 72!

Work with What You’ve Got

I respect what Geo has written – and the place from which these feelings emanate. He and I share some of those demographics (losing our parents and brother prior to age 74 – and some physical challenges). These are areas that do narrow your perspective.

However, if folks will allow me a little faith space, I agree with Paul of Tarsus who said that adversity builds character and character leads to hope – and hope does not disappoint. So I’d suggest to Geo – stir a little bit of hope into his cup of worry.

I don’t know about ‘golden years’, but I think that we are lucky to have gotten to a point in life where we can sit back and reflect a little. It’s just a respite from some of the hard things in life we’ll go back to facing soon. Life is a struggle after all – but a glorious struggle! (And if you feel it is not, well, make it so!). Work with what you’ve got.

Everything has a season for sure. You might say that life is like a garden where different plants bloom at different times. Or you might say that when one skill starts to degrade that you find another modality of which you were not aware. I’m not as strong or fast or virile as I used to be – that makes me sad. But I’m switching gears to focus on creative tasks and finding ways to extend my tennis life: my goals are just more attenuated. And sure, there are times when it seems that my loved ones and I are just on a conveyor belt headed toward end of life. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. But I’m still glad to be where I am in the cycle. And I don’t feel alone.  My faith helps me believe that there is a presence traveling with me – as near to me as my own breath. And I’m pleased with all the small miracles that occur each day, despite the headlines and negativity. It also makes me happy to say thanks for these items that go well, even when you did not expect it. So diminished I am – and more diminished will become… but I will work with what I’ve got.

It’s What We Feed Ourselves

George reminds us that all is not necessarily gold in the golden years.  And, there are times that try our patience, wisdom, and sense of being grounded despite our seven decades of life experience.  For even those of us who can live rather comfortably in retirement, the steady decline in our physical and mental functioning can be overwhelming. Our circle of friends and family grows smaller at an increasing rate and our sense of being valuable and important to those we love slowly transforms into a feeling of being a liability.  Ugh!  What’s so golden about that?

But here comes Wal to the rescue!  He gives us hope.  He suggests that we grab the bull by the horns and do what we can with what we still have to make the best of it.  He inspires me to find ways to be of value, to think smarter in pickle ball games to make up for my slower reflexes, and to find fun in whatever I can.  He reminds me that I can’t change those things outside of my sphere of influence but I can have a positive impact on those things I can influence.  And, as Wal taps into the realm of faith to assist him, I’m also reminded of the Serenity Prayer – written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference”

This topic also reinforces my belief in the notion that we can convince ourselves of most anything, often by spending time thinking about it and surrounding ourselves with people who reinforce what we think.  This works well if we’re happy and in a place of fulfillment.  If we’re not, I suggest need to spend more time thinking differently and more time with people who are happy and content.  (A notion I gathered from the Law of Attraction?) And Henry Ford supports the idea of intention this way:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t –you’re right.” In addition, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the Golden Years as it pertains to not only the leisure years after retirement but also a kind of beginning of the end of life.  While this is likely another blog topic, I’m wondering if any of you have any conversations about the final years with family or friends.

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