When I was 16 years old I thought the age 40 sounded “way old” and in fact, I figured I would basically be halfway in the grave – my kids would be grown and married with their own children, and what would be left for me? As I didn’t want to be old and useless I thought 40 an okay age to die.
Yes I was that stupid (immature, foolish, unbelievably idiotic) because fast forward to the age of 52 and I don’t want to leave this world yet.
No way, nohow. Heck, life holds so much for me! There is still so much I haven’t seen, haven’t done and my kids are not all out of the house yet. Most of the time I don’t feel old; I feel as if I’m 16! I don’t have all the answers (do we ever?), still love to walk about barefoot, blow wishes on dandelion puffs and it takes all my effort sometimes not to skip down the street (one of three things you, believe me, do not want me to do, at least in your presence.)
At the same time I know I’m aging, besides the obvious gray hair and wrinkles there are all those other nagging little reminders that I am not a young girl anymore; getting up after sitting down for instance— lets just say certain areas feel the change. I find myself waking earlier in the mornings when I would rather be sleeping, and stiffer when I rise. Friends too, in many cases, are having more problems. Surgeries on knees, changing eye prescriptions and surgery, increased hearing problems— minor things mostly.
And I am a bit nervous about what the future holds.
We have just returned from a vacation to the States (I and three of my children live in Israel now). We went to see my parents and celebrate their 55th anniversary. They are living in a wonderful retirement home, where all the apartment sections are named for a variety of flora, indicating the abilities of the clients who reside there, which helps maintain the dignity of the clients.
There are three floors in the complex in which my parents live (independent with a bit of help), with wide halls that easily allow two or so scooters or wheelchairs to move down them with ease. There are multiple exists, which make it easy to evacuate the slow-moving in case of emergency, as swiftly as possible. There is a main dining-room, which serves lunch and dinner (part of the price) and the management encourages group meals rather than sitting up alone in one’s apartment. Meals are healthy, and varied and there is some choice in the menu (daily plan plus standard ala carte). There is also a deli (prices are great!) for those that do not want the fish chowder or whatever else is being served.
Apartments are relatively spacious, three rooms, two full baths, and a functional but small kitchen. The windows are large and let in a lot of light, and there is a lot of greenery to look out upon.
There are two libraries, there are two Shuls (Jewish place of worship), there is an auditorium where they put on various programs, such as the history of patriotic music, several times a week. Other programs also take place in the library or the deli after the deli has closed for the evening. There is a nursing staff and medical office on the premises. There are guards. There are buses that take people to the local shopping center. Staff, one and all, are friendly, patient (something one needs in excess for those who move slower, think slower and whose memories are failing), and they know their clients.
The place is in fact packed-full of what one wants for one’s parents, or grandparents, to know they are safe, well cared for and given the best opportunities for happiness in the “golden years”.
Though older my in-laws, in contrast, are a tad healthier than my parents at this point (my mother has been battling cancer for about 10 years, my father’s memory is really starting to go.) They are slower thinking and are experiencing memory problems, have a more difficult time getting around, but are living in their own house and maintain a business. There is a pool in the backyard and my MIL attends a gym.
All of which leaves me a bit sad, and scared. Not for them; both sets of parents are pretty set. Both have other children around them who can and do help them out. Both still have enough money to nurse them through whatever they face (though the crash effected both somewhat, my parents more than my husband’s parents.)
But we haven’t the money to do what we need to protect ourselves in the future. We barely have what we need to keep ourselves afloat now! Mostly we get by on prayer and last-minute luck. I wish to neither be a burden upon nor dependent upon my children for anything but love.
We have some cushioning;pensions, social security from all the years my husband has worked (I have a little but I was mostly mom, a career move that overall I’m glad about, but I will admit it has made our financial situation more precarious, I did work, but worked around the children’s’ schedules). But we are not situated as comfortable as my parents are.
I spent my days catching up with family, enjoying nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, but in the back of my mind, always, worry, my mind on the future.
Reflecting I realize that life is preparing for tomorrow. Has it always been so? Of course. A grandfather planted a tree for a grandchild perhaps not even yet born, who would then reap the benefits. We plow and plant in spring to reap in autumn. Life must be lived in the present, informed by the past and for the future.
Neglecting any of these areas harms ourselves and others.
But the keyword here is prepare . Worry is nothing more or less than mental pain: it indicates that something needs one’s attention. Staying worried is similar to ignoring an aching tooth; it will only lead to further trouble.
So I’m moving on, from worry to prepare, to asking questions and figuring out what to do with us for the future.