the age of reality… on becoming 70

I think I can talk about this now.

I actually googled “how to be 70”.  Before I could type in the whole question, my words automatically populated the field.

I am not the only one who has asked this on the internet!

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A lengthy list of links appeared.  The first was an article from AARP’s website.  I didn’t read the whole thing because when I got to the part about changes to your skin, it kind of freaked me out.

Apparently, as you age the skin around your jawline tends to sag.  This wasn’t the information I was looking for.  I’ve been patting my jaw for days, hoping everything stays put.

Plus, this informational gem brought up another concern as I am loosing weight.  So, when my chubby cheeks are gone will that skin fall down around my jaw?  Is the fat all that’s holding everything together?  And should I get rid of my dangly earrings in case they accentuate this problem?

I moved on.  Another link took me to a person’s blog where she lamented being so sad at turning 70, she took a friend and spent the weekend in Rome.  I hardly know what to think about that.  If you’ve got the time, money and freedom (not to mention a friend) to book a weekend in Rome, why so sad?  I understand money and freedom don’t eliminate problems, but still…..

So what did I do on my birthday?  I did not go to Rome.  Nope.  It was a Tuesday.

On Tuesday and Friday, our dear friend and caregiver comes to stay with my mom for a few hours while I run all the errands.  After the errands were done that day, I bought a coffee, sat in my car and downloaded a book about things to do when you turn 70.

It was a total impulse buy and again, not what I was looking for.  I wanted inspiring ideas, something new and fresh.  But instead, this was mostly practical stuff… like the importance of connection with others, your health, being intentional with use of time, and making plans for the future.

I don’t care enough for the book to recommend it, but it helped me realize I actually do need to deal with practical things.  My mind is already full of things I want to do and places I would love to go.  What I need most is to make peace between all those dreams and desires, and the fact that I am, 1) my mother’s caregiver and 2) that birthday clock is ticking as fast for me as it is for her.

Doug and I don’t regret the choice we made to care for our parents.  We decided that in the early years of our marriage.

Today, however, I admit to a bit of Facebook envy when I read about people I went to school with or worked with who are able to live where they always wanted to live, learn new things, travel new places, just generally have a more flexible schedule.

It disturbs me that two of my daughters-in-law and most of my nine grandchildren have never known me as anything other than a caregiver who lives a good distance away.  I envisioned being the involved grandparent, like mine were to me.  But I feel like the absent grandparent.  And when we do get together, I often feel like the awkward grandparent, learning to know everyone all over again.

After my mother-in-law died, the hospice nurse asked me what I was going to do with my life now that this was over.  It seemed an odd question.  I had no real answer other than I planned to sleep for about a month.

Three years later, we walked that same path with my father.  As many of you know who have worked with hospice, you get to know these people pretty well, and they you.  We had a chaplain, about my age, who stopped by twice a week to visit with Mom and Dad.  She would walk in the door, give me a hug and tell me, sweetly but firmly, to get lost… as in read a book, take a walk, take a nap.  Over time we had many great conversations.  After Dad died, she asked that same question – what are you going to do with your life?

“I will take care of my Mom and figure out the rest later”.

“Of course you will take care of your mom”, she said “but forget later.  How will you design a life that is satisfying to you now?  Because I guarantee this responsibility will consume you if you don’t answer that question”.

I remember this conversation well, because we’ve talked about it many times since.

And because she was right.

And it’s taken two years and 70 birthday candles to wake up.

A couple days ago I read a quote by filmmaker and author, Elaine Madsen.  She said that the first thing you do when you turn 70 is to plan on being 80.  This sounds like a great place to start!

And those practical ideas my impulse buy presented… there’s more to come on them, like…

…ideas on connecting when you’re an introvert, but you love people, but you love alone,  you love people, alone, people, alone?!?…. and those grandkids, I want them to know me

…how divorcing sugar gave me my brain back

…how to choose to sit down and write over mopping the floor (harder than you think)

…how to believe in a future you can’t see, but plan for anyway

Last thing, I’ve decided that regardless what happens to my jawline, the lifelong freckles that are morphing into age spots, or the eye crinkles when I smile… I’m keeping my earrings.

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2 thoughts on “the age of reality… on becoming 70

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