Thursday, May 25, 2006

They just don't get it

Yesterday when I came back from the eye doctor I was talking to Philip, the guy who's building the new deck and stairs to Nel's apartment and redoing the front porch, about having to pay for a full exam even though my eyes had been examined six months ago. I was a little upset about having to pay $99 just to be able to use daily lenses instead of the extended wear. "You're not old enough to need your eyes checked every six months," Philip said. I laughed. "Sweetie, I'm older than you," I replied. (The day before he told me he was 47.) He scratched his grizzled chin (he hadn't shaved that day) and smiled an ingenuous smile. "You aren't." I smiled. "You couldn't be." My smile got bigger.

"Philip, I'm 51 as of last February."

He gaped at me, his mouth hanging open. "No way." He was stunned. "1955. You figure it out." His eyes glazed over as he did the math. "You don't look anywhere near that old."

I get such a kick out of situations like that. Whether it's someone younger or older than I am, it's fun to see the look on their faces when I tell them my age.

I'm not vain about my age (I am vain about my hands) and I take great delight in telling people my age. I'm as proud of my age now as I was when I was six or ten or sixteen. When I was nine my triumphant moment came when I revealed I wasn't sixteen or seventeen, but nine-and-a-half years old. I was flattered to be thought older and more mature.

It's funny about how things have flip-flopped, being thought older when I was younger and younger now I'm older. I don't look so young I get carded -- except when it's the policy for everyone to be carded -- and I'm satisfied (most of the time) with the way I look.

In so many ways, it is difficult to realize I am actually 51. My mother certainly doesn't remember my age. Yesterday she told me I couldn't be that old. She thought I was still 50 -- or even younger -- but her problem has to do with memory loss. Sunday night she called in a bit of a panic because she hadn't talked to me all week. She didn't remember talking to me Monday or Tuesday or Thursday or Friday. That's one fact of getting older I'm not looking forward to at all.

In my family, I have been the one to break the barriers, reaching the milestones first: 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 40, 50. This November my sister Carol will join me on this side of the middle years hump and turn 50. I'm sure she's as excited about turning 50 as she was to turn 40.

Fifty or fifteen, time is passing by at a frightening rate. Just last year I was anxious to turn 18 and move out of my parents' house and be on my own. Twenty-one, a major milestone, passed without a second glance because I was busy with two children and a husband. At twenty-five, work and divorce and three children consumed my life, leaving me no time to celebrate the arrival of my first quarter century of life. Thirty and forty flew by unremarked by anyone but me. Fifty was spent with friends at a movie, followed by a night of dining and ice cream and laughter and fun.

It took me most of my life to figure out that life was precious and should be enjoyed as if each moment was the last. I spent the first 43 years living for everyone but me. I have spent the last eight enjoying life and seeing some of the country. When you get right down to it, there's really no surprise about me looking younger than 51 because I didn't really start living until eight years ago. I stopped living my life when I was a teenager when I put my dreams and my desires and my life on hold. When you get right down to it, I'm barely into my twenties and I have a lot of living to do, living for myself and realizing the dreams and desires I put in storage decades ago.

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