Sunday, August 19, 2007

You're only as old as you feel

Yesterday my husband and I rode our bikes to his mother's house to water her plants while she's out of town. I, of course, brought a book along to read while he did all the work. Hey, she's his mom (though I love her, too). While he waters, I sit on the front porch in my mom-in-law's comfy lounge chair, totally absorbed in Vicki Pettersson's Scent of Shadows, and am distracted by the neighbor washing his car.

Now, there's nothing unusual about a guy washing his car on a warm Saturday afternoon, but I happen to know this man is in his nineties. Not only is it surprising to see him with a bucket and sponge as he scrubs invisible dirt off his blue SUV, the fact that he still drives blows me away. He's slow and methodical in his task, bent like a bow, his steps an audible shuffle as he moves in slow motion from one side of the car to the other. He picks up the hose and meticulously sprays the rear window, then slowly towels it dry. He shuffles back to the house and minutes later returns with a fresh bucket of soapy water to continue his chore.

I was mesmerized. I knew I could get back to the book (which is mesmerizing in a completely different way), but I had to witness this elderly man's energy and dedication to his task. And I had to think about what makes us considered old or young, which made me think of my own mark on the half-century scale.

I just turned fifty a couple of weeks ago, and I gotta tell you I don't feel a whole lot different from when I was thirty. People say: "You don't look fifty." Well, what's fifty supposed to look like? I watch this neighbor and think, what's ninety supposed to look like? I look at my mom-in-law, who goes to fitness classes five days a week, and wonder what's seventy-four supposed to look like?

After a certain number of years, let's say twenty-five, I think we each age differently. You can attribute it to lifestyle, or to genes, but it's likely a combo of both. And attitude. Personally, I enjoy doing active things and perhaps that shows on my body, so that could be why I don't look my age (I still don't know what looking fifty means). I have no wrinkles or cellulite… yet. I'm into pop culture, love MTV and VH1, watch popular TV shows, try to stick with the current fashions (though lots of my old stuff is coming back into vogue, which cracks me up), and I admit to enjoying the company of young people because they talk about things that interest me. Maybe all these things combine to affect my outward appearance. I really don't know.

But what I do know is that if a ninety-year-old man can wash his car in his driveway with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, he's who I want to be when I grow up. Age is relative. I can ride my unicycle, lift weights and kick box, and if I'm lucky, I'll be in as good a shape as he is in forty more years. It's comforting to know I still have many wonderful years left ahead of me.


wavybrains said...

Great post! Age is totally relative! My grandmother is 87 and up until last year, she walked to mass every morning, did her own shopping, and lived in a 3 story home. She's slowing down somewhat, but not nearly what you might expect. And belated Happy Birthday!

Paty Jager said...

You're right- age is merely a number. I believe how you live and the attitude you have toward life has the biggest role in how well or badly you age. And some genetics thrown in!

Happy belated b-day! Didn't you throw a party? I don't remember getting an invite other than verbal and completely forgot it. Sorry~!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Wavy. 8^) My mom did real well until she hit 70, then osteoperosis kicked it. It didn't help that she smoked, which knocked years off her life. I'm so glad I quite smoking years ago. That'll age you quick!

Karen Duvall said...

Hey, Paty, I WAS going to have a party, then decided to go the conference in Seattle instead. Good choice. 8^)

Carleen Brice said...

Hi Karen,
Good to know of your blog. I have to laugh at this topic, as I edited an anthology called Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. :-)

Have a good 50th year!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Carleen. 8^) I like the title of the anthology you edited. Makes perfect sense to me.

Barbara said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Karen! I love that picture of you--was it taken on the coast during our MWVRWA retreat in February 2006?

I remember being elated at turning 50 -- I felt a deep chuckle inside as though I had pulled something over on someone or reached an age I never expected to reach. It felt like a wonderful accomplishment. Have a great year!