I hate the aging process! I absolutely despise getting older! I don’t mind it so much in terms of the number of years I’ve been alive; rather, it’s the number of gray hairs and wrinkles I’ve “earned” over the years that really bothers me. And trust me – with my kids – I’ve earned every single gray hair and wrinkle I have…most especially, probably, those little laugh lines I have around my eyes. Those are the only signs of aging that I wear with pride. If nothing else, a healthy sense of humor will serve us all well as we reach our golden years.
I’ve always hated the aging process. I can remember back to when I was 16 years old and loving that age so much that I’d decided I never wanted to turn 30. To a 16-year old girl loving life, 30 seemed ancient! It meant responsibilities and jobs…and, honestly, all the boys would be “old” too! Blech! To My 16-year old mind, 30-year old men meant nose and ear hair, beer bellies, scraggly beards and back hair. Thank God i was not only wrong, but that the aging process comes with modified perceptions!
As you can imagine, then, turning 30 was devastating! And the worst part is that everyone around me knew it and they were loving every second of it! On the event of my 30th birthday, a beautiful bouquet of black carnations arrived with a card attached that read, “With deepest sympathy on the loss of your youth.” Are you kidding me? I looked to see who had been so “thoughtful” only to find the card unsigned. I called the florist and was told that the bouquet was wired anonymously from another florist and that they simply had no idea. Really? Ya think you can pull a stunt like that and then hide from me? Well, there’s no hiding from me! With a little effort and some really great detective work, I was able to trace the bouquet back to an acquaintance from back home! Seriously? An acquaintance? Geesh! Can’t a girl ever catch a break? Even people who don’t know me well love to give me a hard time!
Okay, okay…time for honesty: As much as I hated turning 30, that bouquet was the highlight of my birthday that year and I’ve thought of it many times over the years since and it always manages to bring a huge grin to my face. But I digress…
Probably the most difficult thing for me about getting older is watching my parents age and realizing that – if they’re aging – not only am I aging as well, but there will come a point in time where I’m exactly where they are right now. I don’t mean to imply that they’re old and decrepit or incapable of caring for themselves; actually, they’re far from that. But they’ve certainly reached the point where a helping hand is appreciated in certain areas of their lives.
For example, in her prime, my mother loved to shop! She’d hit the malls at the 10 o’clock opening and we’d go until the 9 o’clock closing. It’s not that we bought so much – actually, we bought very little on most trips for the amount of time we spent there; but she loved going through every aisle one by one, and she wasn’t satisfied until she’d sifted through every garment on every rack to be sure she hadn’t missed a single thing! Even at age 10 or 12, the woman exhausted me! These days, however, Mom is in a mobility scooter and shopping is more difficult for her so she doesn’t get out as much. But when she does…oh boy, watch out! Do you have any idea how long it takes an 81-year old woman on a scooter to peruse every single aisle in a Wal-Mart Superstore? Trust me when I tell you that you really don’t want to know. Just use your imagination…
And then there’s my dad. When I was a kid, he was the strongest, most physically active man I’d ever known. He woke up at 4:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t sit down until he finally went to bed after the 10 o’clock news. That man was constantly moving! And oh boy was he smart! He holds three masters degrees and is a self-proclaimed expert on every subject. And that doesn’t even begin to touch how physically strong he was in his prime! While not physically a giant in size, his brute strength was at sheer superhero status. He couldn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he could bend a steel rod with his bare hands. Put that man in a round room with a grizzly, and I’d feel sorry for the grizzly! He really was that strong!
Mom and Dad are now 81 and 80 and, with age, has come the physical signs you would expect from aging. As I stated, Mom uses a mobility scooter to get around and Dad – while still stronger than an ox and smarter and more quick-witted than a man a third his age – is beginning to have the appearance of an elderly gentleman. An attractive elder gentleman, but an elder gentleman nonetheless. He looks as he should: a very attractive 80 year old man.
Last summer my folks came out for one of their annual one-month visits from Oklahoma. While here, my mom wanted to get out for a while and “go shopping.” Dad took her to the local Wal-Mart Superstore and – after the first hour of shopping (and knowing there were at least two more hours remaining) – decided to go sit in the car and maybe catch a quick nap.
It was a gorgeous summer day; not at all hot like it was in Oklahoma. Dad went out to the car, rolled all the windows down and, after a while, dozed off into a silent slumber. Apparently it was a very silent slumber. At some point, a gentleman passed my father’s car and became concerned. My best guess is that the guy had probably parked next to my father’s car and seen him sleeping, gone into Wal-Mart to do his shopping, and returned an hour later to find the same man in the vehicle next to his in exactly the same position he’d seen him last. The passerby called 911, thinking that a sweet old man had passed away in his car.
Moments later, a police officer was the first responder on the scene. He arrived to find my father still sacked out. I’m not sure if the officer (or the concerned citizen before him) tried to awaken my father by calling out to him but, if they had, he hadn’t heard them. He had taken his hearing aids out for a more peaceful rest.
Presumably unable to arouse my father verbally, the officer reached in the car window and smacked my father hard on the chest.
Have you ever startled awake a war vet? Umm…here’s a piece of advice: Don’t! A war vet doesn’t wake up “nicely” when awaked abruptly. He comes up with fists a-flyin’ and ready to do bodily harm, regardless of whether he’s 25 or 80. His sleeping mind doesn’t have time to process whether you are friend or foe; he only knows that he’s been startled awake and – given the choice between fight and flight – he’s gonna fight!
After the initial shock of the moment wore off – mostly by the officer, I think, who had just awakened a “dead man” who came back into the world fighting mad – the whole situation became rather humorous. The officer turned back to the crowd of people who had gathered, made eye-contact with the gentleman who had made the emergency call and said, “Thank you for calling this in, Mr. Jones. As you can see, this gentleman is just fine. He just fell asleep in his vehicle. I wish I’d paid closer attention to the Purple Heart on his vanity plate because then I would’ve remembered that these old guys don’t die easy and I’d’ve been a bit more certain he’d passed on before I awakened him so abruptly. I have a feeling I’m damned lucky to be alive at the moment myself!”
I’m not sure Dad knew what to do with this situation. It must be a strange feeling to one day wake up and realize that you’ve reached an age where people no longer watch you sleep because you’re as adorable as you were in your childhood, but because they’re trying to determine whether you’re still breathing or need resuscitation. In any case, I’m pretty sure my dad won’t be taking any more naps in parked cars. As for me, this is a lesson I will take into my golden years. And, maybe just as a secondary precaution, I’ll be buying stock in the latest-and-greatest anti-aging formulas…just in case I get tired one day in my 80s and have a need to take a nap in a parked car.