My first born is turning 40 this month! His birthday is two days after mine and I’m turning 64. Remember the song by the Beatles. “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64”? My “was-band” and I used to sing it to one another and even inserted 64 into our banking passwords. We were so sure that we would still be together. Turns out, it was not meant to be. We got stuck and couldn’t find our way back to one another. We have carved our new paths and seem to be better off for it.
A friend said to me last weekend that being an adult means coming to terms with death. She’s younger than my first born and has had some family members die during COVID. I replied “Birth and Death”. Her response was “There are fewer babies being born in our family than the elders we lose”. How true.
What is adulting, really? I began my journey with these benchmarks; get educated, married, have children and buy a picket fence. Oops! I have come to understand that understanding myself, instead of becoming who society or my family wanted me to be, is when I became an adult. Living true to myself. Comfortable footwear. Speaking up in times of disagreement. Hearing, trusting and sharing my opinion. And, I won’t hide my age, as my mother did for most of her life. I’m proud of my years on this planet. Although, the years do seem to be moving faster now. I’ve learned that I can’t blink or a decade slips away!
On each birthday, I remind myself that my big brother died when he was only 50 years of age. This year, I will have lived 14 more years than he got in this world. His death shook me awake and for that, I’m very grateful. It took me years to get through the grief of losing my big brother, but it made me come face to face with my own mortality. I wrote up a bucket list the year he died. I saved up and took my family to Europe. I started a new business, I wrote a book and climbed the CN Tower stairs. I ticked off more than a dozen things I really wanted to do in the 13 years before I turned 50 years of age. Then, I relaxed for a year as I waited to see what would happen. When I didn’t die, I was able to begin living again. Maybe it’s coming to terms with death that prompts us to become adults after all? Taking responsibility for what we want out of life. Finding our own path.
I’ve learned so much through listening to other people’s stories! When bad things happen to us, we can recover. We must grieve and process our losses, but we can choose to build a life that’s meaningful to us. We can search for the silver lining and remain curious about what we want for our remaining years.
I had a friend who became limited in her movements after contracting a chronic illness. On the year anniversary of her spending most of her days in bed, her boyfriend brought her two kittens. She became angry as she didn’t want the responsibility of these animals. As time went on, she discovered the delights of being entertained by their playfulness and enjoyed their cuddles. Even though her movements were limited, she was able to use the washroom and when she got up in the morning, she fed them on the way to the bathroom, Her boyfriend cleaned the litter and did other heavier jobs.
She started writing a book about the small joys of staying still. She moved out of town and we lost touch, so I don’t know if her book was published. I used to visit her and still remember what I learned about the gems of staying still through reading her chapters. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I still rush around at 60 mph, but I like to believe that I could adjust. I aim to age gracefully and not complain about my losses. We’ll see if I can accomplish that goal and adjust to the limiting abilities that may arise. Time will tell.