On my fortieth birthday, the “morale” committee at the middle school where I worked decked the teachers’ lounge with black crepe paper, black balloons, and black cardboard cutouts of head stones announcing I was “over the hill” and “older than dirt.” I realized I shouldn’t have been so forthcoming about my age. As I slunk away to the teachers’ parking lot at the end of the day, I found my silver convertible covered in more birthday graffiti. They left a bull’s eye open on the front windshield so I could drive it home, but I stopped at the first car wash and erased all of it.
That was thirty years ago.
I don’t remember my fiftieth birthday nor my sixtieth. My birthday amnesia stems partly from a divorce when I turned fifty, and I was wiser when I turned sixty and kept my age a secret from everyone but a close few, but this one is big. It’s real. I can no longer pretend to be “young.” I may never be older than dirt but I am definitely “over the hill.”
I don’t feel old nor do I have regrets. I have survived all my trials and am fortunate to be seventy years old.
I have a sweet grandson who packed a lot of laughter and mischief into twenty-two months of life. We remember him on his birthday and on the anniversary of the accident that claimed his life. We think about him each time his older brother or his younger cousins invite us to school plays or concerts, baseball games or birthday parties – all moments we never got to enjoy with him. Only God knows what he would have accomplished had he lived to be my age or older.
I also recently lost a dear, sweet daughter-in-law. Our last conversation was about getting older. I groused about turning seventy and she confessed she hated turning thirty-eight. One month later she was gone, having died suddenly of liver failure. I helped my stepson pick up their house. Her things were everywhere, her plans interrupted like she intended to walk back into the room at any minute.
So, I won’t complain. I’m turning seventy. Parts of me are aging well, some aren’t, but I am in pretty good condition for being “over the hill,” so don’t feel sorry for me. Age is just one number that defines us and I am so blessed to reach this age. I intend to skip all the way down that hill. Want to join me?