Recently I have given the concept of age, those numerals by which society likes to judge us, some thought.
Last month when I entered into my next decade of life, two comments made to me stood out. One, that I should “act my age.” Another, when someone asked my age and I responded with “70.” They said, “But you don’t look 70.” And I answered, “Well, this is how 70 looks.”
I had not known that my age had come with a job description.
My mother raised me by the notion that age was not something you talked about. She considered talking about age more of a minefield than politics and religion. Mother was so firm about the subject that she never told me her age. That made deciding on what to have engraved on her tombstone a challenge. I still worry if I insulted her by the date.
As I near the age I estimated my mother was when she died, I still am confused by her desire to hide her age. After all, growing older is kind of a requirement of staying alive.
Sadly, for a long time America has idolized youth. What a shame that we value aged wine, but not people ripened by years. So many of us “seniors” are affected by a very real form of discrimination.
It remains my belief that we should never know the year of our birth. Could we not all be happier if we were judged by how we acted and felt instead of the confines of a few numerals?
When we are younger, we yearn to get older. When we are older, we wish we were younger.
Perhaps I am just stubborn, but I refuse to fit into some mold of expected behavior. I believe we are each unique, no matter what our age.
My circle of friends has always spanned the decades. I shudder to think of how much I would have lost over the years if I had judged people by the number of years they had lived.
I married at 16, 32 and 67.
That is a large span of ages, but each time I had the same nervousness, excitement and challenges. I hope I gained perhaps a little more common sense. I know I can still see, hear, feel and think new things every day. That is one of the great things about life, all of the new opportunities. No matter what our age, tomorrow is still a question mark.
My dear friend Marion Lisotto, at 87, has begun playing the piano at a local restaurant with a large martini glass out for tips. My friend Eileen Sorenson, at 96, has the most inquisitive mind of anyone I know. My friend Carroll, in her mid-90s, travels the continent and takes all the walking tours. She has trips planned for the next 15 years. None of these women are defined by their ages.
We may not be able to choose how many years we live, but we can determine the amount of life we put in them. I guess we all have the choice to live our life looking backward or forward. We can choose to be defined by a number or by who we are.
Diana Ingram Thurston can be reached at DIngramThurston21@gmail.com.