A Change of Season

According to the calendar, Summer isn’t officially over until September 21.  But for me, the Labor Day weekend has always signaled the end of summer.  Public swimming pools close, all the kids are back in school, and although the days remain warm (or even hot), they are shorter and followed by cooler nights.  And the flowers that bloomed all summer long begin to look faded and worn, as if they know that the first frost isn’t all that far away.

Some years I’m more than ready for Fall, but not this year.  This year the summer went by way too fast, and we had so many unseasonably cool days that I barely got to wear most of my summer clothes.  If I had my way, we’d be celebrating the 4th of July this weekend, not Labor Day.  But I don’t get my way on such things, and Fall is coming whether I like it or not.  So all I can really do is think back on the last three months and be grateful for all the good memories they brought.

I’m grateful for the short trips we took to visit old friends who we don’t see nearly often enough.  I’m glad that I have finally figured out that good friends are worth the time and effort it takes to stay in touch, no matter how far away they live.  I may not be getting any smarter as I age, but I am doing much better when it comes to getting my priorities straight.

I’ll remember the cool nights my husband and I ate dinner out on our patio, which is rare in St. Louis’ usually hot and humid summers.  I’ll remember that this was the summer we finally painted the ugly-colored brick on our house an attractive shade of grey.  For the first time in over twenty years, I drive up to my house and think, “Wow! That looks nice!”

IMG_2688I’m grateful that I got the chance to host my mom’s 87th birthday party so that she could celebrate with some of her family and friends.  So many of my friends have lost their moms in recent years, and I know that they would give anything to be able to have them around for just one more family gathering.  When I was young, I tended to take my parents for granted (as young people do) thinking that they would always be around when I finally decided to make time for them.  Now I know better.

fullsizeoutput_417bBut mostly, I will always remember that this is the summer that I learned that we will be welcoming a grandson into our family in a few months.  Becoming a grandmother will be a huge and wonderful change in my life, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the reality that my daughter is going to have a baby of her own.  To say I’m excited for the arrival of my first grandchild would be an understatement.

So this Labor Day, there is a part of me that is not quite ready to let go of summer and that wishes Fall would hold off just a little while longer.  But I also know that the changing seasons mirror the changing phases of my life, and that they mostly bring good things.  A mere three years ago, my immediate family consisted of only four people.  Two weddings later, it has grown to six, and soon there will a seventh member of our family.  And that’s a change I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Scary Fast

I was idly scrolling down my Facebook news feed yesterday when I spotted a couple of photos my daughter had posted of my son and herself, all dressed up for Halloween.  They were taken when my children were very young, in the preschool and kindergarten years, but when I looked at the pictures, I was instantly flooded with very specific memories of those two Halloweens.

martha-and-daniel-2I remembered that my daughter’s angel costume had been borrowed from church  (one of the costumes used for the annual Christmas program), and I remembered how grateful I was that my son wanted to be a fireman two years in a row.  I wasn’t one of those moms who enjoyed putting together elaborate costumes for my children, which also explains why my daughter’s ballerina costume in the second picture is nothing more than her dance class outfit with a shirt underneath the tutu to keep her warm.

I remembered how we carved the pumpkins just before eating dinner, so that our Jack-0-Lanterns would be ready for any early arrivals.  I remember how my husband and I took turns being the parent who stayed at home to greet trick-or-treaters, and the parent who took our kids around the neighborhood.  I remember the pumpkin sugar cookies I made,  dying the frosting orange and then adding just a touch of green for the pumpkin stem.  (I may not have been big on costumes, but I put an effort into those Halloween cookies.)  Mostly I remember the barely contained excitement of my son and daughter when the big night finally arrived, and for once, getting a lot of candy wasn’t just allowed, it was actually encouraged.

When my children were young, I was a stay-at-home mom who was struggling to make a go of a free-lance writing career.  Sometimes I felt a bit overwhelmed by the constant demands on my time, the never-ending cycle of laundry, meals, dirty diapers, and trying to keep two very active little people safe, healthy, and happy.  Occasionally I felt isolated and lonely, missing the company of my co-workers and the way I took easy access to adult conversation for granted.  Older women, especially my mom, often told me to treasure the years when my children were young, and warned me that they would be over far too soon.  “In the blink of an eye,” they said, “this will all be gone.”

martha-and-daniel-1

I’m ashamed to say that there were times when I didn’t quite believe them, because time didn’t seem to be moving all that fast to me.  But now my daughter is a 30-year old married woman, and my son is a 27-year old man who will be married in less than two weeks.  It seems like only yesterday that they were a little ballerina and fireman, and so excited for Halloween they could hardly stand still.  How can that be?  How in the world did time move so very quickly?  I remember those sweet days of their early childhood so very well, but I guess I must have blinked…..

Twilight Years

This morning I noticed a rather strong and disgusting smell in our basement.  It’s not unusual for us to spot the occasional mouse down there once Fall arrives, which my husband promptly dispatches.  (One of perks of being married is having someone else deal with unwanted house guests.)  Judging from the smell, we assumed that one of our mouse visitors must have died down there, so we called in our dog Lucy to help us find it.

Lucy has always been known for her keen sense of smell and her willingness to chase any small furry animal that dares to cross her path.  She came downstairs and obeyed our command to “find it” by sniffing eagerly around the basement walls.  Then she froze in front of the recliner on the family room side of the basement, staring intently underneath it.  “Good dog,” I told her, getting down to peer underneath the chair.  Only to find out that what had caught her attention wasn’t a mouse at all, but her favorite red ball.   I pulled it out and handed it to her, and she trotted off with the satisfied air of a dog who had done her job well.  And just so you know, after she left my husband and I found not one but two dead mice down there, and one of them was very, very, ripe.

img_0034I supposed I should be annoyed with Lucy, or at least disappointed that the dog who used to be able to sniff out a rawhide toy stored on the upper shelf of my closet in two seconds flat seemed to be unable to locate a very pungent rodent carcass.  But Lucy turned fifteen this month and this is just another reminder that she is aging, far more quickly than I would like.

When she first came to live with us, Lucy was eleven-months old and had been turned into the animal shelter as a stray.  Although she seemed quite calm when we picked her out, we quickly discovered that was only because she was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia from her recent spaying.  Lucy was actually a bundle of energy, almost scary-smart, and had very little inclination to follow the household rules.  I suspect most families would have promptly returned her to the shelter from whence she came, but instead we fell in love with her and learned to live with her eccentricities.  For her part, she did learn what “sit,” “stay,” “leave it” and “come” meant, and sometimes she even obeyed those commands.  Later, I added such useful phrases as  “Get off the dining room table!” and “Get your furry butt back in bed!” (spoken at five a.m. on a Saturday morning, when Lucy decided she needed breakfast) to her vocabulary as well.

But for some reason, I didn’t believe that a dog as energetic and smart as Lucy would ever age.  I couldn’t picture her no longer being able to hear anything but the loudest noises, and not even waking up when someone knocks at our door.  I couldn’t fathom a time when she would be willing to substitute a short walk around the block for her usual forty-five minute treks through the neighborhood.  I didn’t envision a time when she would hesitate before climbing a flight of stairs, as if debating whether the effort was worth it.  But all those things, and more, have come true in the past of year or so.

img_0992I know we are now living in Lucy’s twilight years, and that her time with us is drawing to an end.  To my mind, the only thing truly wrong with dogs is that their life spans are far too short.  We may have another year with Lucy, or we may only have another few weeks; we have reached the stage where either is possible.  All that we can do is enjoy the time we have left with our loving, neurotic, and smart little Lucy.  And if that means we have to sniff out our own dead mice, then so be it.

The Latest and Best?

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I feel distinctly out of step with the modern world.  I may only be fifty-eight years old, but often I feel as if I am already a relic of a past age,  often bewildered by how fast things are changing and wondering exactly where it all will end.  And although I appreciate the many advances our society has made, and I do enjoy the conveniences of certain aspects of modern technology, I also can’t help but think that some of technology’s latest offerings are just plain silly.  And more than a little bit annoying.

I have seen several commercials lately advertising new refrigerators that are actually equipped with cameras on the inside.  Apparently, it is possible to obtain an app for my phone that will allow me to see what’s inside my fridge by looking at my phone, although why I would want to do that, don’t ask me.  Yes, it could come in handy when I’m at the grocery store to see if the milk carton is almost empty.  But only if the milk isn’t hidden behind a big pitcher of lemonade.  Or, as is more likely in my case, a large bottle of wine.  Do the cameras rotate, allowing us to see all possible angles, including the bag of moldy cheddar in the cheese drawer?  Do they zoom in so I can read the sell-by date on the sour cream?   It seems to me that it would be so much easier to simply check the fridge before I went to the store.

DSC00209My household is one of the few in America that still has a landline phone, without the benefit of caller ID, and I’m not ashamed to say that I actually like it (although I will get around to adding the caller ID eventually.)  It works even when our power is out, and I never have to remember to charge it, the way I do my cell phone.  And while I enjoy the convenience of my cell phone, I prefer to use it the “old-fashioned way” by using my hands, rather than my voice, to operate it.  I find it very annoying to listen to someone speaking their text message:  “We made it the cabin.  Period.  The weather is great. Exclamation point.  Hope the fish are biting.  Smiley face.”   Seriously?  That’s better than typing?

And then there’s that mechanical voice called Siri.  If they’re going to install robot voices on phones, they should at least have given us a choice of what kind of voice we wanted and how we wanted it to be respond to us.  Personally, I’d pick a deep male voice with an British accent that always referred to me as “my brilliant darling.”  Now that would be worth listening to.

I appreciate some of the new technologies for cars, like the reverse screen, but I read an article the other day that says they are working on a “smart windshield” that will actually display messages, including Facebook, across the bottom of it.  Apparently, someone out there feels that seeing the latest cute kitten video or photo of someone’s lunch is so important that it needs to be available to us even when we are driving our cars.  Or maybe they’re going to wait until the cars are actually driving themselves, which I’m also told is coming soon.

Is it just me, or do so many of these new “advances” seem intent on making it unnecessary for humans to do much of anything at all for ourselves?  We won’t have to know how to write, we’ll just speak to our screens, which we will use for everything:  banking, shopping, communicating, you name it.  We won’t need to learn to drive, we’ll just hop in, settle back and let our cars take us where they will, hoping they get us to the right destination .  And we won’t need to remember anything, we’ll just ask Siri.  Ditto for doing any kind of research.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when it really does make me long for “the good old days.”  Never have I felt so old…..

I Think I’ll Pass…

For me, one of the best parts about growing older is no longer feeling the need to keep up with current trends.  The only social media I use is Facebook; I recognize almost no one in People Magazine; my home decorating style is hopelessly old-fashioned, and I never follow the latest fashion styles. (I don’t own a single pair of skinny jeans.  Partly because they don’t look comfortable, but mostly because the world has enough problems these days without anyone having to look at me stuffed into a pair of skinny jeans.)  In most areas of my life, I’m able to easily ignore fads and trends, and am quite happy to do so.

Sadly, some trends are easier to avoid than others.  My husband and I enjoy dining out, and  up until a few years ago, we used to especially enjoy trying to new restaurants.  We’re lucky to live in a large city where new restaurants open frequently, and it was fun to find a new place to eat that offered great food, good service, and reasonable prices. The problem is, most new restaurants also tend to be rather trendy, and I don’t particularly like, or even understand, most of the new trends in dining out.

IMG_1387Some I find simply annoying, like referring to the person standing behind the bar as a “mixologist” instead of a bartender.  Isn’t mixing drinks what bartenders have always done?  I know that many new restaurants and bars offer a huge array of complicated drinks, but I honestly prefer a simple glass of white wine with my meal.  And I don’t like feeling guilty about wasting the talent of the restaurant’s “mixologist” when I order it. (Although my son made up for it when we took him out for his birthday dinner and he ordered a smoked martini.  And yes, it was actually smoking when it came to the table.)

Other trends I find truly off-putting, like the new “communal table” seating.  I don’t go out to eat because I want to be squeezed into a bench at a long table that reminds me of lunchtime in my high school cafeteria.  I don’t like having to watch what I say because I know the strangers on either side of me can hear my conversation perfectly, and might even decide to chime in.  Nor do I want to know all the intimate details of their lives, unless they’re up to something especially interesting or illegal.  Also, I don’t want to be sitting close enough to other diners that I’m not only tempted to steal a french fry off their plate, but I’m actually able to do so if they are silly enough to look away for a second or two.  Fighting temptation is not one of my strong points.

And it might be my age, but I don’t like the high ceilings, concrete floors and general industrial warehouse decor that so many new restaurants choose, because it means the noise level in those restaurants is really, really loud.  My hearing is still pretty good, but in those settings, I find myself asking my husband and friends to repeat themselves far too often.  Sometimes I just give it up and smile and nod at whatever they are saying, hoping they aren’t asking for a loan or if I’d like to babysit their grandkids for a week while they go on vacation.

These days, it’s become fairly rare for my husband and I to try a new restaurant, as we find ourselves sticking to a few “tried and true” favorites where we know the noise level will be low, the tables set apart enough to ensure a private conversation, and no one is pressing us to try a drink that emits smoke.  I know that someday, the latest trends in dining out will probably be something more to my liking.  I also know that I’ll need someone to tell me about it, because, as is the case with most new fads, I probably won’t be paying attention.

Garage Sale Survivor

When I was a young woman, I used to love a good garage sale.  As a newly-married twenty something, garage sales were a cheap and easy way to fill our new home with necessary furniture and household items without doing too much damage to our household budget.  And when my children were young, spending the morning at neighborhood garage sales was a fun family outing.  I’d give each of them a dollar bill to spend on an item of their choice, which kept them happy and busy while I sorted through the goods, looking for gently-used clothes and toys.  At that point, my children were growing so fast that I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on their play clothes or on toys that I knew would be ignored once their novelty wore off.

Later, when our house began to feel a bit too full and we had our own piles of outgrown children’s clothes, I even held a few of my own sales.  It was work to gather the stuff I wanted to sell, price it, make the signs and then get up early on the morning of the sale to set up the display tables in our driveway, but it felt good to get rid of all those unwanted items and make a little bit of money at the same time.  I don’t remember being particularly overwhelmed when I was preparing for a garage sale, or being particularly exhausted after the sale was finished.

IMG_9716Yesterday, I spent the morning helping my daughter, my mother, and my sister host a multi-family garage sale.  Most of the items for sale were my daughter’s, the combined result of her love for shopping and the need to find space in her house for the many lovely wedding gifts she received last year.  It took us hours to sort and price everything because we had so much stuff we couldn’t even fit it all in my mother’s two-car garage.  And since we had all contributed items for the sale, we also had to have a system for keeping track of who was selling what, so we could divide the cash fairly afterwards.  Five of us spent an entire evening just setting up the sale.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was pretty tired before the sale even started.

The sale was an undisputed success, with so few leftovers that we were able to fit it all in only two cars to transport it to the local GoodWill.  We had the usual “early birds” who showed up well before the start time, wanting to buy while we were still lugging around the heavy furniture and trying to remember where we put the cash box.  People tended to come in groups, and usually all wanted to check out at the exact same time.  I started the morning running the checkout table, but decided that wasn’t the best use of my talents after I found myself adding $4.00, $.25 and $2.00 and coming up with $5.43.  After that, I stuck to bagging up the purchases and helping my son-in-law carry the heavy stuff to people’s cars.

I’m very glad that I got to spend time with my family, working together, as family bonding time is always important.  I’m glad that my daughter was able to declutter her house and make a small profit at the same time.  I’m even glad that the people who came to the sale were able to get items they needed at a very good price, because I remember how much I used to appreciate that.  But today, I’m exhausted and sore, and feel every single year of my (late) middle age.  I’m sure that my daughter will have another sale someday, but I’m thinking that the next time she does, my contribution is going to be my best wishes, and maybe a couple of cheap glass vases.

Dressing Room Depression

You’d think I’d know better by now.  Even before I was middle aged, shopping for a special occasion was something I dreaded, because none of the stores ever seemed to carry exactly what I needed.  If I was looking for a dress to be worn at an outdoor event on a hot summer day, all I found were long-sleeve dresses, usually made out of wool.  Sure, there might have been one or two sleeveless, summery dresses hanging on the clearance rack, but they were always a size two, which I haven’t been since…well, ever.  But now that I am middle-aged, shopping of any kind has become a chore, and shopping for a special event has become almost impossible.

Even so, yesterday I headed off to the nearby mall in high hopes of quickly and easily finding an appropriate outfit to wear to a wedding I’m attending next weekend.  I don’t know why I was so optimistic about the whole thing, but I cheerfully told my husband I’d be back in a couple of hours.  Maybe the problem is my memory seems to be going the way of my eyesight, but for some strange reason, I really thought I’d find something that I’d like without wasting my whole day shopping.

Needless to say, I was wrong.  It took me quite some time to find any dresses that were even worth trying on, but eventually I grabbed a few and ducked into the nearest dressing room to see if they fit.  The less said about what I looked like in those dresses, the better.  I came out of the dressing room without anything I actually wanted to buy, but with the firm belief that I needed three things as quickly as possible:  a new diet, a gym membership, and an appointment with a really good plastic surgeon.

IMG_1057I tried a few other stores with no more success at  finding a dress, but I did spot a nice blue jacket (on sale, thank goodness) that I thought just might work over an eight-year old, sleeveless black dress I already owned.  At that point, I was far too depressed to keep on shopping, so I bought the jacket, went home and tried it on with my black dress, and decided to believe my husband when he told me it looked just fine.  I know he wouldn’t have told me otherwise no matter how bad it looked, but it still helped to hear him actually say the words.

I have no idea why the people who design clothes insist in believing that all women are tall, thin, and twenty-something, but they do. And its more than a little discouraging to keep trying to stuff my not tall, thin and twenty-something body into the available merchandise.  It’s hard enough to have hit the time in my life when everything’s sagging and bagging without having to try on clothes that seemed designed to emphasize each and every single imperfection.

One of my favorite authors is Rick Bragg, and he wrote a very funny essay regarding his hatred for shopping (good to know it’s not just a female thing), stating that he has decided he’s never going to shop for clothes again. After evaluating his wardrobe and his remaining expected life span, he concluded that he can “be dead and naked at about the same time.”  I don’t think I can quite pull that one off, but I have an awful feeling that I will be wearing that black dress of mine to every special event I am invited to for at least another ten years, with our without a new jacket to go with it.

Dropping Shopping

I’ll be the first to admit that my tastes have changed as I’ve aged.  I no longer think that green shag carpeting is the coolest floor covering ever, the way I did back in the early seventies.  As a child, I craved candy and would only eat green beans if they were covered in ketchup, but I’m happy to say my taste in food has improved a lot since then.  And as the photo of the outfit I wore to my high school prom shows, my taste in clothing and hairstyles has also, thankfully, improved.

Prom dressStill, last weekend when I went to the local mall to do a little shopping, I was surprised to realize how very much I hated being there.  I used to love going to the mall, and have fond memories of happy Saturday afternoons spent at the mall with my teen-aged friends as we shopped for the latest fashions, stopping only for an ice cream and a soft drink when we needed an energy boost.  Even after I grew up and had my own kids, a trip to the mall was still a good time.   Shopping was a little bit of time to myself, checking out the available goods and occasionally scoring that perfect piece of clothing that fit, looked good on me, and was also on sale. When did that all change, and a trip to the mall became as much fun as going to the dentist?

I think part of the problem is my age, because most of the smaller stores in the mall are geared toward teenagers and people in their twenties and early thirties.  There are some shops that seem to target “women of a certain age,” but they also labor under the mistaken belief that all women my age want to wears lots of leopard print, fringe, and sequins. (I don’t.)

For a while, I could count on the large department stores to be places I could shop in relative comfort, but no more.  Now most of the department stores seem to be having a contest to see which store can cram the most racks filled with random assortments of clothes in their space, forcing shoppers to paw through the goods as though we were at one of K-Mart’s old “blue light specials.”  And even if I do find something that I want to try on, I have to first find an empty dressing room, remove the mound of clothes that someone else left in there, and then prop a chair against the door before stripping down to my underwear, since none of the locks ever work.

Finding something I want to buy means even more fun at the check out, where I’m asked (repeatedly) if I want to sign up for their new rewards program, which entails filling out a lengthy form or verbally giving my email address, phone number, birthday and any other information which is routinely used in identity theft in front of the thirty or so other people who are within earshot.  A friend once recommended trying the “high end” department stores for better quality merchandise and better service, but that didn’t go well.  I did find a belt that I liked, for what I thought was $35.  Then I put on my reading glasses and looked at the label a bit more closely.  It was $350.  Which is considerably more than I will ever spend on a piece of leather whose chief purpose in life is to hold my pants up, and why I no longer browse the “high end” stores.

I’m not sure why I was so surprised to realize that I no longer enjoy shopping at the mall, since my tastes have changed in so many other areas of my life.  Maybe it was because I want to support brick-and-mortar retail establishments and the people they employ, rather than just shopping online and hoping that whatever I order actually fits.  (They never say “perfect for the aging, pear-shaped body” in the description.)  But I think it’s time for me to give up my trips to the mall.  And the chances are that I probably won’t miss them any more than I do eating green beans drowned in ketchup.

I’ve Got This

family photWhen I was a child, I hated it when I would ask my parents to do something for me, and they would insist on teaching me to do it myself.   I remember asking my father to make me some scrambled eggs, and his response was to whip out the cast iron skillet and proceed to teach me how to scramble an egg, so I could do it myself the next time.  If I dared to complain, he would just say, “You’ll never learn how to do it any younger!”  My mother was even worse, since she was a kindergarten teacher, and therefore tended to explain things very slowly, step by step, just to make sure I was following along.  My thought was that if I had wanted them to show me how to do something, I would have said so, rather than simply asking them to do it for me.  But I was smart enough not to say that out loud.

Now that I’m on the upper end of middle age, I find that I am much more willing to learn something new than I ever was before.  I have learned quite a few home improvement skills (despite what my husband thinks, but he’s never forgiven me for that crowbar incident…you can read about it in:  What Did You Say?), my gardening skills are much improved (most of what I plant lives, which is new for me) and I’m thinking about taking a wood working class.  Despite what my kids think, I really do try to learn how to use new technology and spend quite a bit of time and energy trying to figure things out.  My constant questions to them about my cell phone and my computer are simply because, despite my best efforts, there are some times I still have to throw in the towel and ask for help.

But I have had some success learning how to do things on my computer without my children’s help, and “exhibit A” is my blog.  I remember when I first heard of blogging, my initial thought was, “What kind of idiot would keep a personal journal on the internet?”  (Apparently, the same idiot who looks back at me from the mirror each day.)  But eventually, with the steady encouragement of a good friend, I did start my blog, despite my deep misgivings about sending my writing out into cyberspace where perfect strangers all over the world could not only read it, but comment about it as well.  Frankly, I still find that part a little bit intimidating.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this blog (if you use WordPress, check out the entirely random pictures I was horrified to see added to some of my posts in the Reader section), but I’m also having a lot of fun and my list of followers is growing steadily.  And as much as I enjoy blogging, I do miss fiction writing, so I’m planning to learn all I can about e-publishing and see if I can figure out how to do that as well.  And who knows where that might lead?

It pains me to say this, but I have come to realize that my parents were right.  There is so much I want to know, so much I want to do, and learning to do it for myself is the best way.  And I’m not getting any younger…..

It’s All Relative

My husband and I were getting ready to go out to eat last weekend, and he asked what I thought of the shirt he had just put on.  I told him that it looked nice, but it might be just a little too casual for the restaurant we were going to.  We were celebrating our anniversary, so we were going to a new restaurant that had a reputation for being a bit formal.  When we were driving home after our dinner, he mentioned that he thought he could have worn the original shirt after all, since not everyone else eating there had been dressed up, and that “it was mostly the older people who were wearing suits and dresses.”  I answered, perhaps a bit too honestly, “Yes, but to all those young diners, we are the older people!”

I remember talking to a friend at her 50th birthday party, and she described how she had thrown a 50th birthday party for her father years ago, when she was still in her twenties.  She invited all of her parents’ friends to her house, and she remembered thinking how weird it was to see “all those old people partying.”  Now that she was celebrating her own 50th birthday, did that mean her kids thought she was an “old” person, partying with her “old” friends?  Sadly, I had to admit that they probably did.  I’m sure that would have been my son’s reaction, given how often he rolls his eyes and mutters “old people” whenever I ask him a particularly naive question about my computer.  (If he keeps that up, I’m going to have remind him that I may be up there in age, but I’m certainly not too old to change my will.  And unless he loses the attitude, it won’t be in his favor.)

IMG_0450The simple fact is that age is a very relative term.  I remember when I thought thirty was impossibly old, until I actually turned thirty, at which point I decided that you had to be at least forty to be well and truly old.  And now that I’m in my late fifties, I’m finding that I keep pushing back the upper age limit of what I consider to be my middle years, because the only thing that follows middle age is old age.  And I’m just not ready for old age yet, no matter what I see when I look in the mirror.

Maybe the answer is to stop letting people younger than me decide whether or not I am old.  Recently, I was at a ballgame and went to the concession stand to get an ice cream cone.  An elderly man took my order and had begun filling the cone from the soft-serve ice cream machine when he looked back at me over his shoulder, winked, and added four extra inches of ice cream to the cone before handing it to me with a flourish.  I would probably have been much more flattered if he had been under the age of eighty (he wasn’t) and still had at least half of his teeth (he didn’t.)  But realizing that it was just possible that he  saw me as young and pretty, I smiled and thanked him gratefully before heading back to my seat with my enormous ice cream cone.

Yes, age is definitely a relative term.  And I’m sure the day is coming, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, when I will define “old” as someone who is at least 95, and not a day younger.