Here’s the thing I’ve learned about getting older — it sort of sneaks up on you. Turning 30, 40, and even 50 really didn’t faze me all that much. Turning 60 was an oh-my-god moment, though (because there’s no way, by any stretch of the imagination, that 60 can literally be considered middle-aged — how many 120-year-olds have you heard of?). Being a few (okay, three) years past that number feels a little (somedays, a lot) sobering.
Of course, I’m grateful for all of those trips around the sun. For the good fortune of B. and I and all of our friends having made it through the pandemic and having gotten vaccinated (and now finally being able to see and hug each other again). For every day that we get to continue those solar orbits. Of course.
It’s weird, though, to comprehend that college graduation was 41 years ago (when it feels as if it should have been maybe half that long). To see our friends as grandparents (when it feels like they were just sending us class photos of their kids in elementary school). To realize that retirement is the official status of many of our buddies, that Social Security and Medicare eligibility are either here or about to be, and that the generation that followed us to the workplace is now old enough to have a younger generation nipping at their heels (and their glory).
I was reminded of it again yesterday, after having my hair cut. To wit:
As I was admiring the results, I casually asked the stylist, “So, would you say my hair is mostly gray and white or still blonde?” Fully expecting her to reply in the blonde affirmative, I was shocked to hear her say, “It’s mostly white and silver. I’d say there’s only a little blonde left in it.” Ooof. Sucker punch to the ego. Looking down at the three inches on the floor, I have to say I agreed with her. Oy.
But here’s the thing. Despite the calendar dates, the gray hair, the evidence of others having gotten older and of my body no longer looking or acting the same as it did 30 years ago, I just don’t feel my age inside. I still feel like there are adventures to be enjoyed (maybe in more sensible shoes), work to be done (having lived life can enhance your writing like nothing else), contributions to be made (one of the gifts of age is a wealth of experience), and love to be savored (it’s adorably annoying how B. still thinks my hair is mostly blonde and I still think his beard is mostly dark brown — adorable, but wrong on both counts).
So here’s to those of us (aka the Boomers) whose sixties aren’t their mothers’ or fathers’ sixties. Who continue to make some noise and take a stand. Who won’t let a little (or a lot) of gray hair come between us and center stage. Who gracefully acknowledge that we’re no longer the rising stars — but who gratefully acknowledge that we’re not through yet. That we still have a lot to do, a lot to contribute, and a lot to say.
©2021 Claudia Grossman