October 2, 2015
When I woke up this morning, I suddenly realized two terrifying facts: first, while it might be my 69th birthday, I actually have lived 69 years already. Instead, I am beginning my 70th year today. Somehow that makes a difference. Second, the first students I taught are now eligible for social security.
It was enough to make me pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.
Then it occurred to me that I’m amazingly fortunate. Even though people no longer question me if I park in a senior citizen spot, at least my grandchildren, when asked about my age, will guess anywhere from twelve to fifteen. That is reassuring. I think I’ll use their numbers.
Numbers are amazing parts of our aging, if only in our minds. If you had asked me many years ago if I’d have a long life, I would have said, “No.” I was the puny one, the runt of the litter who was always sick from day one with allergies and asthma. The thought of living to three score and ten was never on my radar. Why would it be? At my age now, I have outlived my mother by thirteen years and my younger brother by twenty-three. But my older brother has three years on me and is still plugging along, and my father, who died in 2007, lived to be eighty-seven. You never know, do you?
I find some advantages to growing old, other than the obvious one. First, I was fortunate to have a job I loved, and it
brought me into contact with thousands of students who came in and out of my life, some indelibly etched on my brain for various reasons (you know who you are.) They have also provided me with great fodder for my mysteries where Grace Kimball, retired teacher, remembers an adult she encounters who was once a teenager in her classroom.
Second, I have three adult children that I’m no longer legally responsible for, and who love me as unconditionally as I love them. They are still speaking to me most days. We lived together over a twenty-five-year period and survived. But, just in case that changes, I have long term care insurance.
Then I have nine grandchildren who love to read. It obviously skipped a generation despite doing my best as their parent’s earliest reader and later English teacher. I must find some way to take credit for this gift in my grandchildren.
I’ve made it to a decent age when you consider that life expectancy in the early twentieth century—the century in which I was born—was forty-six. The high school class of 64, both cursed and applauded as the first year of the Baby Boomers, is turning sixty-nine with me. Many of us are now retired or retiring, and have survived long enough to no longer wear a watch or set an alarm clock. On days when we wake up without aches and pains, we check to see if our hearts are still beating.
Living this long means we can blame more things on our parents because medical science has finally caught up. Allergies= genes. Asthma = genes. And now I’ve discovered that even iron deficiency anemia, for which I had to take awful, orange, horrible-tasting tonic when I was little, can be caused by the system that carries the iron in your body. If both parents have recessive genes for this, their progeny can be an iron-deficient child. Sounds like me.
Now, I just have to keep my own children from discovering this theory.