17 April 2007

Aging beautifully

All Things Considered ran a piece the other day on Tom DeBaggio, a nurseryman who has been living with Alzheimer's Disease for the past several years. I was listening in a sort of "oh, how sad" kind of way as I drove home but eventually the voice of Tom's wife, Joyce, caught my ear. She must have grown up around here because she sounds like so many of my friends. Which reminded me of something that I've been noticing lately, that is that none of us are getting any younger.

Yep, nothing gets past me.

(Warning: the following contains a Lifetime TV level of gushy content.)

My mother has advanced (and advancing) MS and a several good friends have relatives with Alzheimers and these are frightening and cruel things to happen to intelligent, productive, interesting, good people. Like most people, I am afraid of those cruel fates, but I've realized that I'm not afraid of getting older. At least not at the moment.

I've had a bit more free time lately and have spent as much of it as I could with my college friends and the extended social circle that we've built up. One of the things that I've always liked about this crowd is its ability and willingness to increase and include new people. The sole criterion seems to be a desire to be with us. (Or as I like to say about my Friday lunch group, "a willingness to endure what we consider to be interesting conversation.") So my "college friends" crowd include a lot of folks I never went to college with and some that I did, although we went in different decades. It also includes a lot of my friends' children who range from little babies to actual adults, so grandparenthood isn't too far in the future for some of us. (Or, rather, them.) I am, by the way, constantly impressed with the amazing level of niftiness of my friends' kids. And by what really great parents my friends are.

Brett for years claimed that there was no way that his little sister was [whatever her then current age was] and that she was only 16. Stacey was 16 for at least a decade. Brett allowed her to move up to 19 after she and John got married and he may even be admitting to over 21 now that Stace and John have children, but I'm not completely sure about that.

I don't go to great efforts to hide my age, especially as Mom's genes and neither smoking nor tanning means that I don't look my age, so why worry about it? But I don't advertise it either because I know enough age-ist directors that I'd rather lose a part to a better actress than to my birth certificate. For the record, I'm ..... I'm ..... well over 21. Very well, indeed, I guess.

But anyway, I'm noticing that we're getting older. Hair is graying or not, weight has been gained, or lost, or regained. Lines are showing up around our eyes. We're complaining less about our knees and more about our backs.

I thought that I'd be worried about this because our society doesn't exactly reward getting getting older but it doesn't bother me. Instead, I think it's really kind of cool to watch everyone as we pass through time. Yeah, in general we're aging pretty gracefully but I've realized that looking at Brett or Emily or Graymael or even Alice (well, not really Alice; she's only "19") and seeing gray hairs or crows' feet where none were when we all met gives us a kind of ownership in each others' lives.

Every time I look at my friends I don't just see now, I see the years that we've known each other getting to now. Some of us have lived longer than our parents. I'm older now than my mother was when she became a divorceé with two kids. We've raised and lost pets. I feel like Hume Cronyn looking at Jessica Tandy. And I'm reminded of one of Peter's best lines in The Pavilion when he tells Kari that he's missed getting to watch the little lines appear around her eyes because of the stupid way he treated her when they were young.

I am so lucky to have these people and so thankful that no matter how stupidly I've treated them now and again, I still get to be around - and they are still around - for me to see the lines coming out. I'm not sure if I'll have the same "life's rich pageant" attitude when we all start using walkers or require home health care, but I hope I do. We've joked for years about having wheelchair races at the Old Folks Home and I'm kind of looking forward to them.

Well we know where we're goin'
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what were knowin'
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

The Talking Heads


Brett said...

I am not getting older, I am just getting meaner.

Leta said...

I find that hard to believe.

Brett said...

It is true. Ask my son.

Priyanka said...

Good that you are meeting up with your old college friends, it is good for your well-being.They will always stand by you, no matter waht problem you face.Remember to share everything with your friends and smile a lot.