Today is my sixtieth birthday. 6-0.
None of my other decade birthdays bothered me in the least. I sailed through each one looking forward to the joys and challenges of the years ahead. There’s something about 60, though, that does give pause.
Maybe it’s because I have had a front-row seat at the aging drama. My parents lived with us for eighteen years, ten part-time and eight full-time. I know all too well what’s ahead . I know that I will have to reinvent myself more times in the next part of my life, however long that may be, than in the six decades I have already lived, just when reimagining one’s life is the most difficult. I know all about closing the family home, failing strength, losing dear friends and family, negotiating independence, down-sizing, hearing loss, dementia.
But, thanks to my parents, I also know about sustained curiosity, unflinching determination, indomitable will, astounding resilience, unconditional love, and a prevailing interest in life and people. Voilà my focus. As for the inherent challenges down the road, we’ll eat that elephant one bite at a time.
I understand as well that the gap between my chronological age and my own perceived age will continue to widen. When I sip my soup from the bowl, or suction up the last bit of my iced-cap, I am twelve. When I reach for the knit dress on the rack, I figure I’m forty. As I continue to collect professional books and read articles on pedagogy, then plan how I can apply what I’ve learned to the classroom, I am fifty. My mother never reached 92 in her head, and my father embraced the world past his 100th birthday. That’s probably why they made it to those impressive milestones. Age, after all, is a state of mind.
However, the clock does not lie. I was born in 1953, so I must be 60. There are other reasons.
I must be sixty because:
· I no longer start planning lessons, grading papers, or reading for feedback at 9:30 p.m.
· I don’t spend weekends at school;
· most of the time, the dining room table doesn’t have leaves;
· there’s lots of room in the fridge;
· I can travel in the low season;
· I read for fun;
· I write for fun;
· I say good-bye a lot, and I go to a lot of funerals;
· I have to drive to see my children;
· I get to let go and let my children;
· My parents, who were 42 and 36 when I was born, have both passed away;
· My oldest child is 32 and a half years old;
· I try new recipes;
· I remember the Canadian flag debate;
· I attended mass in Latin;
· I remember the actual historical events depicted in films: Apollo 13, Argot, Thirteen Days, JFK, Bobby, Iron Lady, Shake Hands With the Devil, to name a few.
Here come the 60’s. Bring them on! Each decade of my life has been better than the preceding one, and I am excited to explore what this new decade will bring, as well as what it might exact. I embrace the adventure.