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.
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.