I tossed and turned in the hotel bed last night. And the night before. You’d think vacation would bring sweet rest but turns out my mind wasn’t privy to that plan. It is hyper-focused on a topic I’ve avoided for most of my life—aging.
Maybe it’s because my eldest is soon to depart for the U.S. Army’s basic training, a grueling nine weeks in which I’ll have no contact with him. Followed immediately by six weeks of advanced individual training. And then, on to a college that doesn’t believe in summer breaks. He is launching, in a very real sense, despite the fact that I somehow forgot to teach him how to properly price car insurance or check a suit for the right fit.
Perhaps it’s because my youngest is headed to high school and—with the departure of my eldest—I’ve realized that in the blink of an eye, I will be kissing him on the forehead all too soon while telling him to call early and often.
It could be because, as I watch the 20-something blonde in her running tights sashay down the airport concourse, I note that the smile the police officers give her is a smile I used to get. When I was blonder. More svelte. Less wise.
I pass shop windows and wonder who that middle-aged woman is, seeing a thicker middle and wild hair—a careworn face. And then, with a slight shock each and every time, I see it’s me. Sigh. I was going to age like Audrey Hepburn, wasn’t I? But that was a lifetime ago. A plan for another time.
I never envisioned aging alone. While always an independent spirit, I assumed I’d meet another male version of that spirit and we’d take on this adventure called life together. I may still. But I don’t seek it. It’ll have to happen by kismet, I’m sure.
Last night, as I finished my meal in the hotel restaurant, a tall, elderly gentleman walked in with a purposeful stride. The beret perched jauntily on his head should have seemed incongruous with his black suede running shoes and track pants. But, he pulled the ensemble off with aplomb. I thought of myself 20 years from now.
I hope I’m an eccentric nuisance in the most delightful way. I hope I live in a college town and take classes alongside the 20-somethings. That I go for coffee or wine with them after and hear all the stories about their young lives. The drama. The risks. The requests for sage advice they will ask for but won’t take.
I hope, like the older couples I recently saw at Long Pond in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, that I wear a bathing suit without shame. That my wrinkles and well-used body are a badge of honor, not an exercise in embarrassment. That sometimes, in the off season, I leave my suit and sunglasses on the dock, diving into the cold water with abandon.
I hope my grandchildren and I have a secret, unspoken pact—made before we entered into these lives—to be partners in crime, just like I was with my Nana. We will exasperate their parents with our antics, bake chocolate chip cookies at midnight, watch old movies together.
I hope someday my boys look back and see that although I was scared s#*tless, I got us through the hard bits. Kept the house. Paid the tuition bills. Lost my marbles once in a while. But overall, did all the things I’d hoped to do as a family of four—minus one—with them. That I would have worked fewer hours if I could have. I hope they find themselves uttering the parenting phrases I said to them, rolling their eyes in disbelief that they now repeat what I said to them so many years ago.
This vacation has been so good for me. I unplugged. I remembered the value of me just being me—not me as a journalist, not me as the bill payer, not me as the chief cook and bottle washer. But it’s also been a reminder of all the adventures I’ve not yet had—and that time is moving so freaking fast. While I will attend to my future, the spotlight for new and hopeful and what-will-come-next is now shifting to the next generation.
I must admit that makes my stomach flip. Partly in fear and partly in anticipation of what’s to come—for all of us.
I guess that’s as it should be.
59 Comments Add yours
I did enjoy reading this, I fear I am one of those middle aged guys who’ll smile when a svelte shapely twentysomething sashays past, she’ll smile 🙂 , I’ll sigh ‘if only’……… aging’s not fun.
My father used to say that getting old is not for sissies. I must say the older I get, the more completely I agree with him :-). Hang in there.
I laughed, I sympathized, and I cried. I love the way you express yourself. And I know exactly how you feel. You’re still young and things will still change and you will get to there in a blink of an eye. Sometimes I have to remind myself that wait I’m not 60 I’m 71 and how did it all go by so fast. Sometimes I feel like there is no number age to me, I feel that I’m just me having a life, And I still have so much to learn and so much to do. Thank you for a beautiful reflection.
My Nana, in her early 80s, once told me that she still felt 19 years old. And that she knew I would not understand that at the time, but that as I grew older I would. When you say you need to remind yourself of your age, I think: how wonderful. We are not our age. We are who we are. I love your attitude!
LOL Your Nana is right, sometimes I feel like i’m 20 it’s like I totally forget my age, it’s like there is no age. And thank you for your kind words.
You are such an amazing mom. Aging. None of us is getting younger, that’s for sure. Every bit reminds us that there is a new normal to embrace. But I love the shift in perspective and the anticipation! I am glad you had an awesome vacation!
Thank you:). I’m trying to embrace the shift, doing it gradually! It’s a feat, for sure. Or maybe a journey.
Such a well written reflection on what a little down time can do. We definitely live in a culture that does not cater to aging, don’t we? I worry that we are increasingly losing our admiration and respect for the elderly. If we can’t learn from our elders (and on the flip side, continue to grow as we age) what is the point?
Wishing you the best of luck in all your new journeys.
I agree that something is Changing and not necessarily for the better. I think we could learn from Asian cultures about how to better revere the wisdom of our elders. Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by my blog.
As graceful and gorgeous as she was, Audrey did her skin no favor dragging away on those cigarettes. She could’ve looked a good deal younger in those later years. You will fare a lot better, and you already have. The d— pressure the (once) smiling cops put on us! On top of everything else! I’m remembering to like my mirror this day. It’s the youngest I’ll ever be.
That’s a good attitude. I look back years when I know I was critical of myself, and I now realize I didn’t know how good I looked :-). My 90-year-old self would think the same decades from now, right?! 😉😘
Just bee-uu-tiful, baby.
We are never ready for the second half of our life. It comes up fast like a freight train and as we turn to face it ,we are somehow surprised and are suddenly asking what’s next? I frankly don’t know either, but I better surrender to this crazy ride, coz like you Kristine, its coming our way with or without our permission! 🙄 Great post xx
I hear you! And crazy that I feel this is sudden, right? Because it’s been heading our way all along:).
My experience in accepting that I’m aging, aging, aging, old has been long and bumpy but at the same time sure and steady; and I think I’m about there. Letting my hair go natural and doing the physical therapy necessary to overcome the damage done in a fall while hiking a year ago helped. Today I’m back to walking easily and accepting, sometimes even liking, what I see in the mirror. I also think my priorities reflect who I am and what I need to be happy more than at any time in my life. All in all, it’s a good place to be; and I predict you will age with the grace, intelligence and determination you have always possessed.
Oh, such kind words. And wise. Why does it not surprise me that you are nailing this aging thing? I love that you can look in the mirror and like what you see. But I have a feeling that has more to do with your inner work than your outer. I will get my head around my next chapter. I think this one may just take a bit of time :-).
Our children grow up and becomes our friends when we allow them to.
Life comes at us fast. I started riding a motorcycle at 54. I used to color my hair…now I wear the gray proudly with a short chic cut to prevent helmet hair. My daughter now calls me the “crazy kid.” Ha!
Enjoy maturing with gusto.
Thanks & congrats to your military bound child.
I love that you have identified what the next chapter is for you :-). I think so many people enter into the “next“ phase of life not knowing what they want. Versus entering it moving toward something. Kudos to you!
I think my tummy did a mini flip too! Great post gorgeous girl .. your boys must love you to bits 😃
Thank you! I like to think they love me to bits–but sometimes I get the typical teenagers reactions:). As we all do!
Hi! I just found your blog (all the way from Nepal) and I’m really enjoying reading it! I’m new to wordpress, and I’m trying to pick and choose whom I follow. Glad I found you. The topics you choose to write about, and the way you write them, I’m a big fan. Looking forward to reading more posts from you.
Thank you for the kind words! And welcome . . .
I’m about to turn sixty, and I’ve noticed that my kids have become a bit protective of me. I used to be Daddy Bear, and now I’m becoming Dear Old Poop Bear. transitions, transitions.
Well, I guess it’s better “Dear Old” than “Crazy Old.” 🙂 Right?
I vote for the kismet, Kay. And good luck with your son off to basic training. 🙂
Thank you. I guess the Universe is giving me a chance to practice non-worrying. Sigh. And the kismet? I’ll always vote for the kismet also:).
I so enjoy your, writing, Kristine. Even when you’re talking about thicker middles. 🙂
Or especially when I’m talking about thicker middles 😂. Thank you.
It’s Monday. I’m retired. I can sleep late, if I want, but I can’t. It seems the older I get, the less I want to, or can’t, sleep longer. You’ll get there and one day , your boys will come to you when you least expect it, and say, ‘Mom, I love you!’ And you’ll be speechless.
I like that story:). I’ll take it!😉
Fabulous Kristine, transition is always hard but I know that you’ll be doing all those things and more!
Right? Why is transition so hard? I’d like to, for once, blithely glide through it⛵️
Life does shift, Kay. But there are still great things to anticipate, long for, know you’ll be great at. And there will be a gentleman out there who’s in a similar state of life who will think you are the beauty he’s been seeking forever. Kismet. Great word!
I just have to shift my attitude to full throttle ahead instead of a nostalgic look back. Thanks, Mark!
Thanks for so elegantly and eloquently describing what many of my peers are going through lately. I’ve still got a few years to get there. Down the road I could definitely live in a college town as well. Particularly love “The requests for sage advice they will ask for but won’t take.” Ah, the twenties. I fondly remember them as my “stupid” years.
It’s odd because I’ve always known that this time was coming. But I was so in the thick of it, raising kids, that it somewhat crept up on me. I didn’t think I would have anything close to empty Nester syndrome. I thought I would welcome all new phases with open arms. I know you were still in the thick of it, but enjoy the moments. Those are the bits that I remember fondly.
I know we are meant to let our birdies fly the nest. But it also hurts me so deeply with my two sons. I look at my own Mum now and am numb. My brother was killed in a car accident. So I guess some flights are easier to take. But it freaking hurts.
Oh, I’m so sorry. That certainly puts my grief on an appropriate scale. And reminds me to be thankful for what I do have, not bemoan what is changing. After all, change often brings us the most beautiful things, if it is not tragic.
Your heart wants company, and your now wise conversations too young lady. Most of us reach this point of finding ourselves, on our own, but get to a point of not sharing ourselves with anyone because of all that emotional pain we have been through and not wanting to do so again. We’re too tired. We find the odd soul here or there but the moment they begin to show ‘rubbish’ we switch off. And understandably so. I too have walked those paths but my mistake was in not stepping off them, following a life pattern that said ‘beware’, when in fact it said ‘beware, your about to enjoy yourself!’.
You are about to step off that path…and you won’t even care if your 25 or 80. Your heart is the most beautiful it has ever been…let her sing ❤
Beautifully said, as always. Thank you, sir.
Age is a state of mind, so they say. Not sure what mind I am in.
I agree. I am not feeling old so much is I am feeling a shift to the next phase of life. Which somehow caught me unawares :-).
Reblogged this on Daily Rants and commented:
I woman after my heart.
Don’t threat being alone. You can always count on me for company. I too am alone and often wonder “What if?”
I’m sure plenty of people do. But I know some very happy single people. I’m one of them, most days😉
You have such a knack, dear Kristine, for hitting the nail on the head and then sharing it in the most eloquent way.
Where I am now is no where what I envisioned ten years ago. I didn’t think I’d be doing this parenting teenagers/young adults alone. I never thought I would feel like what I say means nothing but still hoping that years later, will be appreciated.
I, too, want to (and will and occasionally DO) throw caution to the wind and just be who I am meant to be without worrying about being too old to do so. We have many years ahead of us (or not – which is why we mustn’t tarry) to experiment, continue learning, living and getting the most out of life.
You are a beautiful woman inside and out and I bet you get looks from a different generation 😉 but are so busy looking at that younger version of yourself getting what you used to get to see it.
You are doing amazingly, my friend….
Oh, such sweet words. We are simpatico. Wish we lived close enough to have the talk overlooking the sea, red wine in hand:). Sending ❤️
I can certainly see you being free-spirited, playing at the beach, and sharing wisdom. I hope you don’t follow my path and allow life to keep shrinking by not choosing adventure and growth. And yes, aging is shocking and challenging. I’m still resisting at 60!
Never to late to grow instead of shrink, right? A recent trip reminded me to do new things, see new places, meet new people. The Universe whispering, “Grow, grow, grow.”
Another insightful post Krisse. You are so beautiful inside & out. And what you’ve accomplished is so admirable. If your sons don’t already realize what a rockstar mom they have – they soon will I’m sure of it!
Aw, thank you, friend. Need to learn to love myself the way you do! Getting better at it each year . . .
“… I don’t seek it. It’ll have to happen by kismet…” Me too. And in the meantime, I continue to live my life as I deem appropriate.
Yes! Because the people that stymie me are those that put life on hold, making it about chasing a love that can’t be chased.
Best years to come! I’ve had this thought myself. It’s a strange feeling when you start seeing changes.
It certainly is! Unexpected, at least for me. Which is crazy, because of course time is marching forward.
Yes, you would think one would expect it, but you never feel it will happen to you. Oh well, I’m excited about it at the same time
Excellent writing, by the way.
Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by my blog.