My Mom used to always answer questions about her age by saying she was “29 and holding”. Once all five of us kids were well past 30, that became even less plausible, but that certainly did not stop her from saying it. Eventually she changed it to “I’m celebrating the second anniversary of my 25th birthday.” That one finally fell by the wayside when my oldest brother hit retirement age.
Its funny though, how a little kid is so crazy proud to announce they are turning a year older. Then after hitting legal age for all the good stuff, things become blurry; folks start ignoring birthdays or lying about their age. Then if you manage to live long enough, those very high numbered birthdays become an accomplishment to brag about again.
With all that in mind, I am now not afraid to talk about my Mother’s age. She is currently an Octogenarian. Actually, later this year she turns 90 and joins my Dad as a Nonagenarian. Now those are mighty brag-able numbers. The concept of ‘old’ might be a moving target, but at 90 its hard to deny since you were born before they invented ballpoint pens, microwave ovens, suntan lotion, scotch tape and credit cards.
Of course it’s all relative, I remember being a cowering first grader afraid of those ‘old’ sixth graders marching around school like they owned the place. When my parents were my current age, they seemed old to college student Dan, but that does not seem true anymore. The older I get, the higher the age increases to what is ‘old’ in my head. I assume sooner or later I will run headfirst in the ‘old’ brick-wall..
Currently, I am but a mere quinquagenarian. Now, as much as that might sound like the name of a Sichuan noodle dish, an upstate New York Indian tribe, Speed Racer’s chimp or an expletive from a 1960’s TV’s Batman fight scene, it is actually the technical term for folks in my age group. A rather goofy confusing name for a goofy confusing age. Being a sexagenarian sounds like it might be a lot more fun than a quinquagenarian. Although I’m not sure the prefix ‘sex’ is really that accurate for folks in their 60s, especially since many in that age group experience a decreased amorous drive, menopause and sexual dysfunction. Maybe they should be called ‘nugatory-sex-age-narians’.
Previously, I’ve had no issues of suddenly feeling old when my age rolled over into the next decade, but I do worry about becoming a sexagenarian (or a nugatory-sex-age-narians). I could rationalize back at 30 or 40 that I was likely not even halfway to my final terminal finish line. And with all those nonagenarians in my family, 50 did not seem old-age crisis inducing. But 60, no matter how you look at it, there is no denying that is over the hump, on the back 9, on the far side of the mountain or throwing the egg carton out of balance. I foresee a head-trip when I cross that line.
I recall my Mom had difficulties when she turned 50. My Grandmother had recently passed, the youngest of her five babies was in High School, but most importantly, in her head 50 had always been the gateway to elderly. Of course that was 40 years ago and I bet her current opinion of where that moving ‘old’ line, is very different.
Social media allows me to see which of my childhood friends look relatively unchanged and which very visibly show the hardness that their lives. I look in the mirror everyday but the changes in my appearance are slow and subtle. At a speed similar to the shifts of the earths tectonic plates, the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth have slowly deepened and connected, swallowing my dimples and chin clef along the way, creating a series of faint facial fault line chasms. I like to think I look younger than the average quinquagenarian , but frankly I’m not really sure what my age is supposed to look like.