It’s just a number, right?
No, it is a SURREAL number, one I can’t quite wrap my head around. I clearly don’t picture myself as whatever my previous idea of “70” was. Which reminds me of my mother, in her 90’s, delivering Meals on Wheels, to what she referred to as “really old people.” Like me, she saw herself as eternally young despite evidence to the contrary.
I recorded my thoughts at 50, realistically a halfway point these days. So 70 is definitely the down slope which gives one pause and a different perspective on life, and what comes at the end. And maybe beyond.
So here are some of my reflections as I pass this milestone:
On Final Arrangements-
It is time to plan for “the end” so my boys don’t have to. There are really difficult decisions to make and I don’t want my sons to have to make them when they are grieving, nor pay for them. So my plot, a stone’s throw from my parents’, has been purchased. Someone just has to get me there. During my research, I found the whole funereal industry so expensive and distasteful. When I’m gone, I’m gone. Keep the money for yourselves and your children; don’t bury it with me.
On spending money-
There are constant reminders that life is short; news of those younger than me dying of cancer, by accidents, in natural disasters. While I don’t want to outlive my money, I want to enjoy it while I’m here. I worked damn hard for it.
That said, I don’t need more THINGS. I could shop my closet for years to come, just replacing the worn out basics. 98% of my life can be covered by jeans, leggings, long sleeve Tee shirts, basic cashmere sweaters, a great pair of boots, one pair of black heels and flats. I have enough jackets and coats for any temperature variation. But I’m still a sucker for a pretty dress! I definitely don’t need more fine jewelry having given my diamond crazy husband an edict: only costume jewelry in the future. Seriously!
On use of my remaining time-
What I DO want to invest in is more EXPERIENCES while I am still physically able. All those demanding trips we talk about to far flung places, we need to do them while we can. The concerts, plays, movies we love to share, that’s where we should be spending our time and money. I don’t need fine dining anymore either, just good food. And good wine.
I’ve become more of a homebody than ever. Having a comfortable, beautiful abode has always been important. Now it is my cocoon. I look forward to coming home where the light pours in, the furniture is comfy and there are numerous places to cuddle up with my husband and my dog to read, knit or binge watch addictive TV shows. Add a glass of Pinot Noir and a fire and, really, what else does one need?
Speaking of husbands and dogs, although I love him dearly, I will never have another husband. But I will always have another dog!
I’ve been married twice, once for 32 years and now for almost 10. No regrets. But a lot of hard work comes between “I do” and “happily ever after.” There have been many peaks and valleys and it takes determination to stick it out. And sometimes outside help can be invaluable. But if I find myself alone from this point forward, I will remain a single lady. With a dog.
On changes that time hath wrought-
I am still trying to come to terms with my “new” body. My formerly tiny waist is no more and though I am still at the low end of my “acceptable” weight range, it’s rearranged itself in a way that is not altogether pleasing or even recognizable to me. Ditto to my skin which doesn’t want to stay firmly and smoothly attached to my skeletal system. It’s frustrating to have zero control over my body. All I can say is, thank G-d for Pilates and Spandex!
On maintaining health-
As a member of the lucky gene pool, I fully expect to live into my 90’s as did my parents. All my organs function perfectly; it’s my skeletal system that needs constant remediation. If only I had married an orthopedist instead of a dentist!
Lots of surgeries have followed me since hitting 60 including two recent spinal fusions. But I just keep moving because with arthritic joints, it’s disastrous not to.
I am dedicated to Pilates which I have practiced for over 10 years and walking, preferably by the ocean, or in the woods but on the dreaded treadmill if all else fails. Healthy eating is my goal but I live by the 80/20 rule: eat smart 80% of the time and indulge 20%. However being somewhat obsessive, it’s more like 90/10. I have no plans to give up dark chocolate –ever- nor wine or an occasional margarita.
On beauty (i.e. maintenance)
Less consumed than I was when I started my blog, I have settled into a simple routine of twice a day cleansing, vitamin serum in the a.m., SPF 50 religiously, and moisturizer. Every once in a while, I’ll do an at-home peel or mask just for the hell of it. At night, it’s Retinol, eye cream and more moisturizer. Consistency, not brand, is important and certainly not exorbitant creams with unrealistic claims.
Cooking nightly is a bore; cooking for friends is fun and creative; but baking = love and will always be my passion. Compiling a family cookbook of my mother’s recipes last year while I was recuperating from surgery kept me sane and gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. And long buried memories that came flooding back.
I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a kid I read my breakfast cereal box if nothing else was available. I cannot be without a book! Now I volunteer at my local library bookstore. It is exactly like being a kid in a candy store. So many books, so little time! I wish I could live there. I also started a neighborhood book club that has put me in touch with a great group of intelligent, expressive women.
On my “growth years”-
As I look back, my 50’s were a real high point of my life in terms of career achievement and personal growth. I had four productive years between husbands that were invaluable in terms of learning who I am, feeling confident in my own skin, and adjusting to self -sufficiency. Having married at 23, becoming single and dating in my 50’s was a real eye opener! Aside from some very lackluster dates, there were two lengthy relationships that taught me a lot about what I did and didn’t want in a male companion. ‘Nuf said.
Female relationships are increasingly cruciall to my life. Women are so emotionally evolved and diversely interesting. Each friend adds something to my experience. Some of my friendships go back to grade school, high school, college, former jobs and places I’ve lived. Though years and distances separate me and the many women who are meaningful to me, I try to nurture those relationships and stay in touch. I could do a better job and will strive to let them all know how important they have been/are to me. On the other hand, I have no time to waste on someone who does not add something to my life.
Family is EVERYTHING. The older I get, the more precious the moments I spend with them and when my children gathered for my Big Birthday, I was over the moon. Although it’s very anti-feminist of me, my greatest goal was always to be a mother because I emulated my own. And nothing has given me more pleasure. My little grandson is a giant cherry on top of my life’s sundae. I had forgotten what it was like to fall so in love! My second marriage added extended family which has so enriched my life. My step- daughter and son- in- law are incredible people whom I love and admire and I have had the joy of watching my three “acquired” grand children grow from little kids to high school and college age, each amazing in his/her own way. I simply adore my entire family.
On looking backward-
As I look back over 70 years, it truly has been a “Long and Winding Road”, one I could never have envisioned. My only goal was to get out of Iowa!; now I have lived in eight different states from Midwest to Southwest to New England. I’ve been a single career girl, a married woman, a Mom, single again, married again. I’ve had entrepreneurial businesses, changed careers and retired. There has been exhilaration and despair. Unexpected physical challenges that have had me down, but never out. I have had an incredibly fortunate life; solid, loving and supportive parents, a close knit family of nieces and nephews, cousins who are like siblings. But I also have a sibling from whom I am distant although I no longer brood about it. Life goes on.
I can’t help but think of my incredible mother who, even in the last weeks of her life, got up each morning, dressed, put on jewelry and makeup and with a big smile, said in wonderment, “I’m still here!” Yup, Mom, me too.
Let’s see what comes next…..