I live with an old dog.
If the adage that every human year is like seven dog years is true, my dog Benji is 98. Or maybe 100.
He has some quirks.
He used to sleep wherever he wanted, now he sleeps in a large crate beside our bed. Some nights he gets up five, six, seven times, wanting to go outside, every 10 minutes for an hour or so.
My husband and I generally take turns letting him out, but the day following one of these episodes is often a tough one. I wake up cranky and tired, already worn out from interrupted sleep.
I try to be patient but I do admit to sometimes thinking less than generous thoughts about the old dog whose restlessness has caused me to trudge to the front door in the wee hours of the morning again.
But I do love him and so I trudge.
They know what it’s like to be your age. You don’t know what it’s like to be their age.
I can remember thinking similar impatient thoughts about my mother.
Mom lived to be 90 years old. She had a stroke at 87, which affected her mental capabilities.
She lived her last three years in an assisted living facility near my house. I used to help her shower and get into bed every night.
Sometimes she would ask to go for a drive before bed, usually to see places she remembered from her childhood.
Occasionally, we would return from the drive, pull into a parking space at the facility, and she would request to be taken to the exact location we had just visited.
I would try to tell her, “Mom, we were just there“, but she needed to go again.
I would usually sigh, put the car in reverse, and drive to revisit the site we had seen 15 minutes before. For some reason, the first visit wasn’t satisfying. She needed confirmation that she had really seen what she thought she had seen.
I didn’t understand it, but then again, I have never been 88.
She could put herself in my shoes. She cared for her elderly parents when they were ill. I couldn’t put myself in hers.
As we get older and have more experiences in our memory banks, compassion and empathy become easier.
You will slow down. And that’s a good thing.
As we get older my husband and I vacillate between fighting against our slowing running paces and accepting them.
Actually, I fight, he accepts.
I know it’s a losing battle but I sometimes feel as though I should at least try to slow down the aging process.
I am a retired teacher. Before I retired, my typical school day looked like this: wake up at 4:30 so I could walk the dog and go to the gym before school. Run, swim, or take a class. Get to school by 6:45. Eat breakfast in my room, help students with projects before homeroom, teach a full day of classes, host open lab and individual instruction after school. After a 10-or-12-hour day, go home, cook dinner, eat dinner, pack breakfast, lunch, and a gym bag for the next morning, and grade papers until I fall asleep. Every day.
It was exhausting.
The slower life of retirement was a welcome respite.
Having time to write, to take a walk in the woods, to play with grandchildren, read, volunteer, to sit and daydream is a gift. An advantage of aging.
I was delighted to discover the slower pace of retirement life suits me just fine.
You will become invisible. And that’s a good thing too.
I can remember getting stopped for going through a red light when I was in my twenties.
My mother had admonished me many times “Laurie, you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
I used to wonder why I would want to catch flies in the first place, but in this instance, I did not want to get a ticket.
I turned on the charm. I smiled at the police officer. I may have batted my eyelashes.
I got off with a warning.
If I tried to do that now, the police officer would probably think I was having a seizure.
I have become largely invisible to younger people. And that’s a good thing.
When we get to be a certain age, we can wear outlandish clothes if we please, laugh as loud as we want, worry less about the insignificant, and make others feel good about themselves.
There is a certain freedom to being able to move about unnoticed. We have the power to make things happen without worrying about our egos.
Invisibility has its advantages.
When my mom was in her early eighties, it became evident that taking care of the house and property where she and my dad had lived for over 50 years was becoming a burden.
She began looking for a new arrangement.
She visited some of her friends for lunch at their retirement community to determine whether it would be a good fit for her.
After her visit, I asked her what she thought – was this a place she wanted to live?
Sadly, Mom shook her head. “Laurie, I don’t want to live there. Those people are old.”
It’s all a state of mind.
“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” – Albert Einstein
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