On aging with grace

September 2019
by Phyllis Shragge

Beating sun, torrential rains, whipping wind and driving ice pellets pound the cliff’s smooth surface, creating deep crevices that enlarge as the years go by.  Time is the antagonist of nature’s glory.

The cliff and our aging faces have much in common.  Time ravages our façade as we slide (unwillingly) into our elder years. 

As we lose the seemingly flawless complexions of our youth, women, and many men, are horrified by time’s determination to steal our once youthful glow. “Who is that person in the mirror,” we wonder.  “What happened to the young person I know I am?”

I am a grandmother now, struggling to accept reality:  I am no longer young. Yes, 60 is the new 50, and 70 is the new 60, but as we age, creaky knees and sore backs suggest otherwise.

Inevitable deterioration aside, I believe that a positive attitude can ward off many problems associated with old age.

Many problems, but not all.  Why can’t I remember the plot of a novel I read two weeks ago?  Why do I forget simple nouns?  

I’m not alone.  In my circle, it is common to hear the following refrain:  “What’s his name?  You know, he was in the movie with what’s her name?  It took place in Italy.  I think it was Italy.  Maybe it was Greece.  During WW ll.  It was nominated for an Oscar.”

Another friend responds: “Right.  That guy.  He was also in a movie with that blonde actress, the one in that series on TV.  What’s it called?”

“I know which series you mean. It’s on Thursday nights.”

And on and on.

The name of the actor in the movie that took place in Italy (or was it Greece?) remains a mystery.

Everyone sighs.

Hours later, when I’m home in bed, about to fall asleep, the actor’s name comes to me in a flash.  But by that time, who cares?

I’ve been told that this type of memory loss is normal and it’s common among older folks.  I don’t think my friends and I have true cognitive impairment, thank goodness.  Apparently, fuzzy brains are typical in our age group.  
Getting older does have some benefits.  Maybe.

When you reach a certain age, you don’t care what people think about you.  No, that’s a lie.  You always care. Another thought:  When you reach the other side of 60 or 70 or even 80, and if you are blessed with good health, you can do what you want. You have the freedom to focus on yourself, to do what makes you happy. You don’t have young children. You aren’t climbing the corporate ladder.   

Now is the time to travel, if you can.  You might hike through Italy’s Amalfi Coast, or climb to the top of Machu Picchu, or trek through India or Asia. Or, realistically, you might take a cruise.

Let’s face it, there’s no time to waste.  We all need to enjoy each day.

For now, I will try putting aging into perspective.  I will tell myself that an aging face reflects life experiences. I will tell myself that an old brain is filled to the brim with information, so it rejects extraneous details.  I have learned from the muddled days of my youth. I am no longer trying to find myself.  This is as good as it gets.