“Ama, are you shrinking?”
The question was posed by my five year old granddaughter, and it made me stumble a bit at first. Could you tell? Was it THAT noticeable? When I mentioned our conversation to my son, he tried to comfort me by saying that she had been asking everyone that lately, even he, her dad. Hmmmm…okay maybe I was being over-sensitive.
But the truth is I’ve been thinking a lot about the aging process lately. I have two geriatric pets that I have raised from their infancy. With animals, it’s like watching time-lapse photography; the playful puppy, the kitten doing flips, then they finally calm down, then they get decrepit and die. Rosie is almost 12, Stella, my cat, is 15 maybe 16. She looks like one of those ancient relics in a nursing home that’s always shouting, “Can I go back to bed now?” She is always either on her way to a nap, or her dish of food, which takes a long time to eat. I am afraid to look. She might not have that many teeth.
I take care of a lot of elderly people at work. They are slow at everything. It’s God’s way of showing me how difficult and impatient I am. And lately I’ve been wondering how long it will be before I become slow and unsure. I’m at an odd age; fifty seven to be exact, or fifty seven and a half if I was in first grade. My handsome husband, who is physically in better shape than me, turns sixty next week. You absolutely MUST have a good sense of humor to round this corner.
We are both shrinking. They say it’s the soft little pillows between your vertebrae that loose their bounce. All those years of being upright take a toll on you…forget about drugs and alcohol. So you shrink. I shrank two inches last year. That means there is less space to hold your stomach in, so I’ve really been looking at elastic waistbands and I think I’m all in. I’ve always gone for comfort so most of my wardrobe won’t require a lot of adjustment. But you do want to avoid looking like Stella.
“Can I go back to bed now?”
Another distinct quality of this past middle-age but not ancient yet age is we seem to be invisible. When you are really old, you can be adorable, “cute”. Even in a cantankerous way. But we are not cute in our fifties or even sixties. We are the ladies that don’t know what to do with our hair and wear ill-fitting clothes that are too tight or too loose and maybe too much jewelry to offset the clothes and too much makeup to off set the face. And the men that wear baseball caps to hide the bald head and leather jackets that hang funny. I know, you haven’t noticed. That’s the point.
Honestly, I don’t want to be old. There are too many possibilities. As a nurse, I’ve seen them all. And it’s possible I won’t be cute, although I know Jesus will help me to at least not be mean and angry. I don’t like to think of myself as vain, but the vision of fumbling for change in my purse while a line forms behind me at the check-out, or clutching my Lifeline while I battle crawl across my living room floor…no thanks.
CB and I have vowed to grow old together and to try to keep laughing. So far it’s working. And we still ride bikes, swim and hike and I go the gym… occasionally. So I’d say we are not fumbling for change tomorrow. But the next time I shop for pants I might try on some with those elastic waistbands.
I told Brooklynn that, Yes, I was indeed shrinking. I told her that someday she could hold me in the palm of her hand, and even put me in her pocket when we go places. She stared off for a moment with a winsome smile, picturing her grandmother in her jacket pocket; going to museums and playgrounds and maybe even to school together. And I could tell, at least according to Brooklynn, I would be really cute.
For now, that’s good enough for me. I end with this quote, familiar to me until I read it all. I love the last part.
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” Robert Browning