I was born in 1946, the first of what would become the most powerful generation of Americans ever seen. In the past five years, I have become a caregiver for my aging mother and a husband with cancer, and a part-time sitter for grandchildren. I know my experience parallels that of the seventy-eight million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who have survived long enough to become senior citizens. We are truly the sandwich generation—facing a set of problems never before encountered by so many at the same time.
I’ve reached that time in life where more is behind me than in front. Fifty may be the new forty, and sixty may be the new fifty, but however you slice it, I am past middle age. No matter how many fruits and veggies I consume, no matter how many cosmetic procedures I endure, no matter how much Pilates I do, the body is not what it used to be.
Surprisingly, I do not find this disturbing. Actually my age frees me to “be all that I can be.” I may be growing older, but inside—where it matters—I am being changed into a new and better me.
Sixty-two is a great age. I’m healthy enough to enjoy living and wise enough to appreciate life. I have survived adolescence and menopause, child-birth and child-rearing, living with a head-strong mother and a head-strong daughter, a full house and an empty nest. I’ve lived long enough to hide a few skeletons in the closet and to have a few, long ago buried, leap out unexpectedly. I’ve watched family members come into this world and family members leave. I am a mother, a mother-in-law, a wife, a grandmother, and a friend. Until a few months ago I was a daughter.
Now I am the matriarch, the fount of wisdom, and the keeper of the family history. When did I pass from 1969 to 2009? How can it be that the flower child has become the flower gardener? That the protester has become the progenitor? I went to sleep wearing bellbottoms and woke up wearing Beltones. If nature follows its projected course, I’ll soon be knocking at the pearly gates.
My grandma—whom I thought ancient at the age of sixty—used to say, “The older you get, the faster the time goes.” In my memory, I can hear the opening trade-mark of her favorite soap: “Like sands through the hour glass so are the days of our lives.” I must be getting older, because the sand seems to be pouring through. I can squeeze the grains in my hand, but time doesn’t stop for anyone.
One thing I know for certain: Growing old is better than the alternative.