Turning 65. It’s not necessarily anyone’s favorite milestone birthday.
So many things about getting older are annoying. Vanishing hair, for instance. Those silver ones are fine, even attractive if the light is just right; it’s all their friends and relations that have disappeared who are the problem. Or joints that start to creak when you move and stiffen up when you don’t. And skin that begins to look and feel somehow too big for you.
Even worse are the reminders that, at 65, you have suddenly moved into a new demographic category. One populated by “those to be condescended to.” Where you are offered—or worse yet, are automatically given—the senior discount. Where your annual medical checkup becomes about what Medicare pays or requires instead of how you feel or what you as a person may or may not need. Where you are part of a population officially considered “at risk”—from diseases (get your flu and shingles shots!), from home hazards (have you installed hand rails in your stairway?), and from phone scammers (“Your medical supplies are ready to be shipped; we just need your credit card number.”)
It is sometimes enough to make a person want to stamp her foot (if only it wouldn’t hurt that one arthritic joint) and shout something rude and crude that is not considered appropriate to a nice person in the over-65 demographic.
But on the other hand . . .
The man who was my husband, my sweetheart, my friend; the father of my wonderful stepchildren; the workaholic who thrived on challenges like staying up all night to solve an engineering problem; the jokester whose grin could light up a room; the waltzer who was grace writ large in size 15 cowboy boots—that man would have turned 65 this week.
Except he never got the chance to reach that milestone. He died before he even reached his 50th birthday.
He missed so much, and those of us who loved him have missed so much. All those graduations and weddings. The births of 13 of his 17 grandchildren. More than 15 years, so far, of the little delights and frustrations, celebrations and griefs that thread themselves together into days and months and years of living and loving and being.
He might have grumbled about turning 65. He might have joked about it. My guess is that he would have done both. My grief is that he never got to do either one.
Turning 65. Or 67 or 75 or 85 or even 95. Aches and aggravations be damned. Being lucky enough to grow old is a blessing and a gift.