Seventy is far closer to the end of life than I want to contemplate, but my mom plans to enjoy the entire decade.
Mom is one of the only people I know who has rejoiced at getting older. At some point in her mid-sixties she said to me with great delight, “I’m a crone!” By which she didn’t mean the shriveled up old woman who lives in the scary house, but a wisdom figure, an elder who may choose to live in a scary house for fun if she so desires.
When we say, “She looks good for her age” we mean “She looks younger than she is.” I’m as attached as the next person to being mistaken for a student, but I can also already tell where the spots on the back of my hands will be—at least the first round. Without Mom’s example of aging gracefully, that might freak me out more than it already does. She has given me a priceless alternative to clinging to the appearance of youth or mourning its loss.
I have a friend who is ninety, and the last year has been difficult for her. I understand—as much as anyone still in the first half of her life can—that aging is not easy. But in our culture we so rarely celebrate the joys of getting older: learning that so few situations are do or die, worrying less about what people think, gaining wisdom from having seen your successes and your failures fade, finding depths in yourself when those you love die. Not everyone learns these with age, but I’m not sure anyone can learn them without it.
When I was organizing Mom’s birthday party recently, many invitees said to me, “I thought she was younger than that.” I don’t think a drop of moisturizer has ever touched my mom’s face, so either she has really good skin or something else accounts for true youthfulness.
It might have something to do with elasticity of spirit and willingness to hope. And it may be what we need to enjoy life regardless of the number of years we’ve accumulated. Whatever it is, you’ll find it in my favorite seventy-year-old. Happy birthday, Mom.