I was listening to a replay of a Frank Langella interview last week about his role as Frank in Robot and Frank. The screenwriter is in his 30s and both the actor and the main character are in their 70s. Before Langella agreed to take the role, he wanted to spend time talking with the screenwriter – Christopher D. Ford – about what it was really like to be a 70 year old man.
Yesterday was the second annual “Jan’s Not Dead Yet” Day. My mom died at 55 years and 19 days old, and I reached that age on April 1, 2011. I’ve now lived exactly two years longer than my mother which makes me ponder things.
I often wish I could ask my mother questions like, “When can I expect to feel a little arthritis?” (because it seems like everybody does eventually) or “When can I expect these hot flashes to stop?” My mom didn’t live long enough to deal with arthritis or menopause.
Actually the last eight years of her life were so chemo-fueled that the usual aging patterns did not apply. How could she know if her hot flashes were about too much tamoxifen or too little estrogen?
I can’t speak for all Middle-Aged Women, of course, but this is what it’s like for me. Not dead yet, but . . .
- I’m invisible. I was once only invisible to young adults when I’d go shopping with my daughter. Now I’m invisible to everyone. It’s not that I’ve ever been the kind of person who stopped time when I entered a room because of my breathtaking beauty. But now I have a hard time getting the dry-cleaning lady to notice me.
- I wear flats – always. When I fell and broke my nose in January I was wearing Birks which are not like wearing stilettos but it was just high enough a heel to trip and crash. (Note to self: Most women who break their hips are wearing flats, so this will not guarantee anything.)
- I wear glasses most of the time. My vision was like an eagle’s until I was about 50, but I always thought wearing glasses was cool. It’s occurs to me now that older people fall down a lot not necessarily because their hips go or their legs are weak. They can’t see. Wearing bifocals is really dangerous. Especially on stairs.
- I can’t say words like “cool” anymore. I hate it when people my age – or even twenty years younger – say words like “rad” or “def” or when people my age try to be something we are not (or we are not any more.) This is really hard because I’ve actually always said “cool.”
- I am not cool anymore. Oh, yes. Once I was very cool. But now it looks like I’m trying too hard. And thermostatically speaking, I am usually freezing or burning up – never cool.
- My sleeveless shirt days are almost over – maybe not this decade or even the next, but eventually. I love sleeveless shirts on women. I love sleeveless little black dresses. I love sleeveless sundresses. But women reach a point when we can’t do sleeveless anymore, even if our arms look like Michelle Obama’s. Proper ladies wear sleeves. Long sleeves. Ugh.
- I can’t hear. No commentary here except that I actually need a hearing aid.
- I’m increasingly unemployable. While some churches and other religious organizations honestly want the best and brightest of any age, most of these organizations want a 30 or 40-something leader. I get this and I was once this person – the thirty-something pastor, the forty-something pastor. I was even the 20-something pastor for a few years. But now I encourage churches to give young pastors a chance. I honestly love this and yet it also makes me feel a little wistful.
- I just recently realized that I look old. It’s really shocking to realize that I don’t actually look like I’m 40 anymore. (Note: a man asked me in church recently how old he looked and I said “30” when actually he looked at least 50, but I could tell he thought he didn’t look middle-aged at all. He did though. So do I.)
- I have an urgency about life because I could be dead any second. My nonagenarian friends tell me this about themselves all the time, but since my parents died young, I’m slightly shocked that I’m still alive at 57. To live to be 80 seems like a remote possibility even though it’s indeed possible. My point is that there’s a lot of work to do before it’s too late. Most of this work involves Jesus and sharing the news that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, how can we make our streets, our schools, our congregations, our neighborhoods more like heaven? We need to get moving.
Today I begin my third year beyond Mom’s life span. And while this post is more about me than I usually write, it’s on my mind this morning.