I’ve always been a cautious driver and age hasn’t improved my courage. Knowing my reaction times are slowing, my hearing fading and my periphery vision narrowing, I take extra precautions, which include driving at the lawful speed even if the road ahead is straight as a ruler and mine is the only car on the horizon. I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when heading for home, a youth with a race car engine shot ahead of me on a two lane highway, passing on the right into what might have been head-on traffic, and calling from his open window, “Get off the road, you old goat.” I guessed his speed to be 70 miles per hour in a school zone and as I drank in his exhaust, it occurred to me that this young man might never be lucky enough to become an old goat.
Seeing oneself as old is a difficult transition and when a person stands on the cusp of realization, say between 49 and 50 or between 59 and 60, the desire to claw back on a life that is more than half over is overwhelming. A few never accept the reality of being old. Grey bearded men flirt with short skirted girls, hoping to appear distinguished. Women with breasts that fall to their knees, show cleavage. But the young, though young, aren’t stupid. They know for every time there is a season.
I’ve had my youthful season and though it may sound disingenuous, I’m glad to be rid of it. No more cramps. No more tampons, for a start. Old age is proving to be the best of times. I’m free of expectations, other peoples’ and mine. It’s a freedom no rebellious teenager standing slouched at a school dance could ever understand.
Recently, as I was browsing through Good Housekeeping, a subscription I’ve had for years, I realized I was bored. I cared nothing about mascaras or decorating my living room. Not even a ranking of the best vacuum cleaners could hold my attention. (There was a time when it would.) But granite top kitchens and fine china strike me as a burden. If I want to entertain, I’ll take a friend to lunch. For me, all the trappings of a good life are irrelevant. What I prize is my health and the company of old friends whose history I know like the pages of a favorite novel. In sum, I’ve lost my youthful angst. I live life exactly as I choose and in doing so, I believe I am gaining the confidence to look Death in the eye with no regret.
Thanks to time’s passage, I have found my core and frankly, I like myself. Liking myself isn’t selfish. It means I can offer friendship without fear of rejection. I can even smile at a callow youth who calls me an old goat. Compassion is what time has taught me, broadening my view of life beyond peripheral vision. I find this vista a fair exchange for a padded bra and false eyelashes.
(First Published 3/13/15)