Anne Horrigan Geary: The chimera of aging



We’ve just returned from a trip to North Carolina to visit Bob’s mother and celebrate her birthday -- her 102nd birthday. She is in relatively good health although she lives in an assisted living facility because she has mobility issues and when she lived alone she occasionally forgot to turn off the stove. She has outlived all her siblings, two of her children, and one of her grandchildren.

Being bred of strong Yankee stock, tracing her New England roots back to the 1600s, and being strongly rooted in religion, she doesn’t complain about her state of life. She accepts what is. Her poor eyesight and hearing have cut her off from watching much television or having long chats on the phone; but in person she loves to talk about her family and tell stories of her life on the farm which we have all heard a hundred times.

Catching up with my high school classmates via Facebook in our post 50th reunion world, I am amazed at the differences among people of the same chronological age. Some are still working, some are retired. Some care for grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Some are cared for in nursing homes. Some ride motorcycles, some walk with canes. The people with whom I regularly communicate are active and vital and centered in the present. Living in the moment is a trait we share; liking a good joke or a challenging puzzle are others.

Personally, I can’t grasp what my age "feels like" because today is just like the thousands past; I don’t feel old because I don’t know what old feels like. I might move a little slower or take an occasional aspirin for the ache in my knees; but I don’t define myself by the number of birthdays under my belt.

The Generation X babies, of whom I know two intimately and many others casually, are growing up in an uncertain world. They are often focused on their jobs, career advancement, and spending leisure time with their friends. They’ve taught me about craft beer and using the Wii. They embrace technology and stay close with their friends via Facebook, text messages, and Twitter -- to name a few. Many have mortgages and have had to buy their first lawn mower to keep the lawn in shape.

On the whole, I find them to be an enchanting group who have big plans, rescue cats, and consider themselves part of a global family. Mostly, they talk about the future, whether it’s where they are going next weekend or where they will live next year.

Some have used the term "sandwich generation" to refer to people who are caring for aging parents as well as worrying about the needs of their children. If we are that generation, I guess you could call us the peanut butter of life, that sticky stuff that holds two slices of white bread together, and the glue that binds three generations of family.

The nice thing about being the filling of the family is that we are also held close to those we love the best. I depend upon my sons to carry the boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic; but they depend upon us to have a decorated tree and stockings stuffed to overflowing when they come home for the holidays.

If our parents are busy looking back in time and our children are looking forward, I think that we are privileged to be in exactly the best place: waking up every day on the right side of the grass and pleased to be putting our feet on the floor to begin another day. Carpe diem is our motto, with a side of gel insoles in our shoes to aid our achy feet.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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