© Another Day in the Country
It happened for the first time when I was somewhere between 45 and 50. I got a glimpse of what it was like to grow old.
My parents were in their 70s, seemingly ageless, but I had a friend nearing 80, and he needed some help. After I would visit him, doing things at his slower gait, I felt like I had wings on my heels when I headed home, having never really paid attention to how fast I usually walked.
“So this is what it is like,” I said to myself, “to grow old?”
A few years later, my father got the diagnosis that his heart was failing. I watched him ignore, defy, fume, blame, fight his way through his remaining 10 years.
“I don’t want it to be like that,” I said.
The birthdays mounted up and last winter it hit me, “So this is what it’s like to grow old.”
It’s unbelievable, that’s what it is! I don’t really feel old. I still do all the things that I’ve always done — albeit a little slower maybe, carrying a little less of a load, more trips. My face is more wrinkled. I’m heavier. I have to wear glasses, now. My hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be.
Somehow, I had no clue that while on the outside I was changing, on the inside I wouldn’t feel any different than I did 10, 20, 30 years ago. I honestly forget that I’m now in my 70s. Am I supposed to be wiser now? Should I be more cautious? Should I be planning ahead. For what? My demise? Going downhill?
“There’s some things you need to be finishing,” I say to myself. “There’s some plans we need to be making,” I say to my daughter. “Why don’t we just take it as it comes,” my daughter says to me. “We’ll figure it out as we go.”
I’ll tell you what I’ve decided in the midst of this aging business: I am going to absolutely enjoy every day to the fullest, doing what I can. Even in the difficult times — and we all have them — I’m mentally listing all the things that I still can do and all that I am grateful for.
As I write, it’s Tuesday, just another day of the week, but it’s a 75 degree, sunshiny day preceding colder weather and possibly snow, tomorrow. (Another good reason to make the most of the day.)
“What should I do today?” I ask myself, since there’s no one else in the house.
I started off by feeding the cat and then making myself a Gillwoods Breakfast (my favorite restaurant in the Napa Valley). I made hash browns, a spinach omelet with fresh salsa. Ooops, no bread for toast, no Gillwoods Coffee either, tea will do. Made my bed, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, took out the trash. Fed and watered the chickens and headed straight for the pond. I had to get it cleaned out and ready for winter. What a job!
In the process of cutting back the water hyacinth, I cut the water hose that feeds the stream. Suddenly, I had a new ‘fountain’ in the pond. Now I had to fix that hose; but first I had to turn off the pump, let the hose dry and then repair it — blessings on electrical tape! Jay and Justin came by — today was the day they could cut dead branches out of some of our trees.
“Which ones?” they wanted to know.
Two loads of branches to the burn pile later, it was noon.
With no inspiration for lunch, I called Jess and said, “How about going to Durham for mashed potatoes?”
She agreed that was a splendid idea.
“I’ll pick you up,” she said.
After lunch, I sat in the hammock and read a few chapters of a great book by Lee Childs (a favorite author), enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Then, back to the pond, wading in deeper to get all the leaves out. Water over the top of my boots, pants wet, fish begging for food. What a great day! I took a chance and let the chickens out for awhile. Mary and Aunt Sue remembered that I sometimes tossed them dry cat food by the back door and they all came begging. Marshmallow, our resident cat, looked disgusted and turned his back on them. He was really just intimidated by that black hen.
“Maybe I’d better put those storm windows up on the screened in porch,” I say half to myself and half to TTT — I still talk to him sometimes. Those windows were the last project he did and because they allow the porch to stay warmer in winter, it extends the flowering time for all my pots full of plants that usually grace the porches. Wow, am I glad for those windows! “Thanks again Tim-bo.”
I guess this is what it is like to grow old. You keep doing the usual things, you sometimes talk to people who aren’t there, you wonder where all the time went, you’re grateful for small blessings. It’s life! This mysterious, adventurous, wonderful gift of another day in the country.