Seventy-five is harder than I thought. Seventy didn’t bother me much, so I didn’t expect 75 to be that tough. My friends and family say, “75! Three quarters of a century. Wow! That’s a long time.” They also note, “It is just a number.” I remember being one quarter of a century and thinking that was old. I got pregnant that year, apparently believing I was quite old enough to take full responsibility for a newborn child. Brett is 49 now. Forty-nine! That affects me almost more than my being 75.
Okay, okay, 75 is just a number. Everybody says that. But, listen here. It’s a big number. It’s just plain weird to think I’ve been teaching for 50 years and driving for more than that. This is my last quarter century. Or, maybe it’s my last five minutes. I need more than five minutes, however. I have way too much stuff going on.
For one thing, the book is turning out to be a force in my life. There is so much to do if you want to market a book! I’ve learned how to manage a Website and add new articles, then optimize them for Google. I have a Facebook page for the book and a Twitter account. I’m figuring out how to live with death as the focus of my work. I’ve made four presentations so far this year, have five more lined up and several new inquiries. Each presentation begets presentations. I’m doing the keynote for the Society for Research in Adult Development in June in Boston. I’m doing a presentation at the Harvard School of Psychiatry and Law this summer. My co-author, Dori and I are planning one in February in New York.
I have noticed after all these years of working, that my priorities have always revolved around the goals of other folks: raising two kids as a single mom, tagging along with Larry to the ends of the earth, helping care for my Mom and Dad when they were failing. I haven’t really been the decision maker. I have always the preferred the role of “right hand woman.” It started in Junior High when I ran for Girls’ VP—not President. I’ve been the Associate Chair of the department, the Co-director of the program, the “Associate Dean,” of the School. I’ve advised Presidents, Provosts, Deans and Chairs, but I never wanted to be in charge. It seems to me that the Person in Charge has to listen to too many complaints.
With the book and the website, I’ve finally stepped up to the complaint desk. It is truly my project. I’ve heard all kinds of complaints about facts, fonts and grammar. I’ve had a thorough critique of my sub-heads. People all over the world can critique my work or just complain about it. And I am still taking care of other people’s projects, including their kids.
I’m taking the grandkids a couple of days a week. I’m not up to all four of them at once unless I have help. I keep the older ones overnight on the weekends now to give my daughter a break. I take the little ones around Santa Barbara as often as I can. Last time, we went to the Natural History Museum and saw the taxidermy exhibit. It’s one of the few things I remember from 70 years ago—the taxidermy at the L.A. Museum of Natural History. Lukas loved it—he’s four.
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stay organized. I spend half the time looking for phone, or my drink, or my glasses. There are so many more things to keep track of than there used to be. We have cell phones and glasses and water bottles. You have to bring your own bags to the grocery store. I’ve gotten a smart watch so I can remind myself what I am supposed to be doing, but I forget to use the watch.
So, I write things down on old fashioned lists that I forget to check. I remember how impatient my mother got with herself when she reached this stage. I know it is scary. I don’t see the point in being mad at myself about it. I forgive myself. My lifelong tendency to spill things, bump into things and drop stuff has only gotten worse. My feet hurt from the neuropathy I developed after chemo. My back aches. I have allergies and a touchy stomach. Not bad for 75.
I notice that I have taken to calling everyone sweetie. I can’t remember when this started, but I realize that my European and Middle Eastern friends are very affectionate in their greetings when they know someone. I have taken this to greater heights, by calling everyone sweetie, whether I know them or not. I do wonder if that bothers them. I call my grandkids sweetie too. It’s just that I’m so much older than almost anybody.
And then there is the whole thing about the future. It does seem scary at times what with global warming, school shootings, thousands seeking asylum, and it’s hard to know what to make of those things. Older people have been worried about the future since the beginning of time. However, this is the first time we are on the verge of frying.
I worry that a day will come when I no longer understand what is going on. This has already happened to me watching television commercials and listening to alt rock. Also, I don’t understand Lincoln in the Bardo although it won the Mann Booker prize for fiction and rave reviews from the New York Times. I hope it’s not a sign that I am slipping.
I’m looking forward to the future though. I hope to own a self-driving car before they my kids take my car keys away. I’m planning on virtual reality to take me on safari in Africa or down the Amazon without the sunburn and mosquito bites. I’m hoping for a personal robot that will carry my glasses, my drink, and my phone around, remind me what I am supposed to do next and clean up when I spill things. Once I have all of this in place, I expect to manage the next twenty years and find out whether 95 is harder than 90.