A Case of the Human Condition: Early Late Youth Gives Way to Middle Middle Age

A 67-year-old woman enjoys herself at a white table cloth dinner with wine and a rural setting. BF Newhall photo

Enjoying myself. Photo by Jon Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It’s time to tell the truth – to myself. I’m sixty-seven years old.

That’s a big number. Sixty-seven. And I don’t like it one bit.

When I was twenty, I didn’t want to be thirty. When I was forty, I considered fifty a disaster. And now that I’m sixty-seven I don’t want to even think about sixty-seven, let alone sixty-eight.

To be honest – sort of – I don’t feel old. I can remember World War II, waxed paper and Kukla Fran and Ollie. My knees creak when I get up from the computer. But I don’t feel old.

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I dreamt I was approaching “early late youth.” And now, I’m ready to have the dream that tells me I’ve arrived at “middle middle age.” Okay, okay, maybe it’s “late middle middle age.” But no way is it “old age.”

Still, that number, sixty-seven, is a big one. In restaurants, I order from the senior citizen menu. I’ve heard my kids use the word “old” in the same sentence as “Mom” or “Dad.” Most wrenching of all, my high school class – the class of 1959 – has scheduled its fiftieth reunion for October.

A man stands in a doorway at the end of a long hallway. He's visiting his high school 50 years later. Photo by BF Newhall

Jon visited one of the buildings of his old school. This hallway looked and felt exactly as it had when he was a kid. Photo by BF Newhall

My husband’s class – also the class of 1959 – celebrated its fiftieth last weekend. A lovely dinner was held in its honor. Tables were set out on the patio under the oak trees. White tablecloths. Wine glasses. A golden California sunset combined with uncountable refills on the wine softened the mood and the wrinkles around the eyes. We looked terrific. We felt terrific.

Over dessert, Jake, one of the guys in Jon’s class, stood up to make a little speech, closing with a poetic, “For us, the past is bigger than the future.”

“And there’s very little future left,” muttered one of his classmates.

It’s true. Even if I live to ninety or a hundred like my mother and grandmothers, there are now a lot more years behind me than ahead.

Which makes me a rich woman. I have years. Sixty-seven of them. Sixty-eight on my next birthday. A childhood in the Midwest, with glorious summers along Lake Michigan, the impossibly white sand squeaking under my bare feet. A young adulthood in New York and San Francisco and the thrill of seeing my first articles in print. A life with Jon, parenting two babies who – swiftly, relentlessly – became children, then teenagers, then adults.

The old downstairs playroom where Peter and Christina used to ride their trikes and build their forts is now my writing room. Outside my window, a sturdy Monterey pine and the neighborhood doe with her fawns keep me company. On the Internet, I reconnect with old friends once lost in the rush of years. I keep a blog; I write what I damned please.

I have a lot of years. Nobody can take them away from me. And all those years of mine make me feel, not old, but grateful.

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Comments

  1. Hey, Peter. Thanks for the comment. You’re a good kid. And, yes, I still think of you as a kid — since you’re still in your early late youth.

  2. I think this might be my favorite article!

    To be honest, I now don’t really consider people in their 60s that old anymore because you and dad just don’t fit the image I had in my mind growing up of what a 67-year-old should be like. Will either of you ever really become “old” or feel that old? I guess so, but I’m pretty stoked you aren’t there yet and that I have quite a few years left before I feel old, ;).

    I’m getting somewhat close to 30 and I don’t even view 30 as anywhere close to middle age. It’s really only as old as I think it is.

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