His favorite phrase is like a mantra in my brain today: Getting old is not for sissies.
This was my father’s much-used answer to, “How are you doing today, Dad?” At least in his eighties. The decade before, he’d say cheerily, “Finer than frog’s hair, sweetie.” I was never quite sure what that meant but Dad always made it sound like a positive.
But in his last years, he struggled. Pulmonary fibrosis made it difficult for him to feel he was getting enough oxygen, despite the ever-present tank. He bruised easily due to some of the meds he was on. The world that used to be his oyster became smaller and smaller as his activities became more and more limited.
His answer to all of this was the pronouncement that getting old is not for sissies. Damn. He was right.
While nowhere near my father’s advanced age, I am getting older (aren’t we all?). And today, when tempted to have a pity party, I remembered Dad’s words.
I’m not complaining about any physical ailments. I’m just complaining about the grownup piece of it on a day I just want someone else to take care of it all.
When my sons’ stubborn persistence is applied to the wrong pursuits, instead of what they should be focused on and my patience has worn thin—not for sissies.
When teachers are less than enlightened and create yet one more obstacle, instead of teaming with me to clear them—not for sissies. Coming from a family of teachers, yes folks, I am more than qualified to make this determination. A good teacher is worth a six-figure salary.
When the dog and children are all throwing up—well, you guessed it. I don’t even have to say it on that one.
And I’m not even mentioning the big things—planning for the future as a single mom, looking at retirement savings, health care plans and all the necessities that used to have twice the resources thrown at them before divorce. Fixing the popped screw in the ceiling, the sagging arbor, the clogged drain (maybe not so big for you, but for me—oh my).
I watched my father take care of things like this list of annoyances for years. He was a tough old bird. He worked hard and didn’t enjoy these activities any more than I do but at the end of many days, after a bit of grumbling, he’d sink into his chair and say, “Aren’t we lucky? We have each other. We have our health. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table. And we laugh.”
So today, I resist the urge to be a sissy. I’m taking care of business, one piece at a time. I guess I’m showing my kids, unbeknownst to them, what my father modeled for me all those years. “Getting old is not for sissies” is another way of saying, “Man up and enjoy the journey. It goes by way too fast.”
No finer way to end than with someone, a very small someone, who says it better than I ever could.
Here’s your pep talk, people. Ain’t no room for sissies and bellyachers on this bus.