Yesterday I dropped off the kids at school and then ran to the grocery store to pick up some things. At that time of day, it's usually quiet...a few young mom and a few seniors making their way slowly through the store.
One lady smiles and makes eye contact and we get stuck at an aisle intersection. As I'm pushing my cart away, I faintly hear her say something, but I think she's talking to someone else. A couple aisles later we meet again. She smiles as she approaches the chip aisle. "You didn't hear me back there. I told you I was going to buy the bad food," she says. Then she proceeds to tell me how good the buffalo flavored pretzels are. We chat for a minute and I move on.
Three more aisles away, we bump into each other again. More conversation. She gives an explanation on why she has two cases of Corona in her cart. :) She tells me how she's turning 64, but she stays active with her grandkids and goes to the gym almost every day and has a drink now and then to "stay loose" instead of shriveling up staying at home and being alone. She looked fantastic (African American women just don't seem to show their age). Then she asked me if I was married and asked if he was a good guy. She told me she had a boyfriend, albeit one who was nine years younger, and that she'd had bad boyfriends in the past, but that this one was worth keeping. She was sweet. After a couple minutes, she was on her way, pushing toward the dairy section as I went toward the check out.
I walked away thinking about her advice on staying active and like I often do when I meet someone like here, I think "that's how I want to be when I'm older." I turned 40 last year and I find myself in kind of a weird spot. Much of the time I feel so much younger than I am...I think I wrote in a blog post before that I still feel about 26 in my mind. There are times when I feel immature, like I need to act my age...stop turning up the car radio so loud, stop laughing so hard at crude scenes in Adam Sandler movies, stop procrastinating about things adults should be motivated to do, like housework.
But, at the same time, I've always felt like an old soul. As a kid I was independent. As soon as I started making my own money with babysitting and a paper route at age 12, I bought everything I needed on my own. I've always been intrigued by history and love listening to oldies tunes. I like to play bingo. I enjoy volunteering. If I could sit still long enough, I could totally see myself knitting or crocheting. As a kid, I always felt more comfortable interacting with adults than peers. By the time I graduated high school, some of my best friends weren't classmates, but women old enough to be my mother or even grandmother - they were co-workers from the district office. I'd worked in the school office for a year-and-a-half before graduating as part of the office education program. I spent my break time sitting among ladies who would chat about Medicare and the benefits of the upcoming early retirement incentive program. I joined the local historical society about 16 years ago...and I'm still the youngest member in the group.
One one hand, I'm starting to feel the affects of age creeping up on me - gray hairs popping up here and there, more wrinkles making their way onto my face, an ache in that left arm on cold days that I broke several years ago. On the other hand, I'm really looking forward to becoming an "old lady." I'm looking forward to the day when fashion will become less important and comfort will prevail. I'm looking forward to being a grandmother. I'm looking forward to the days when the pace will slow and I can walk through the grocery store with no place else to be and give advice to the young moms I see pushing their little ones.
Also, I've gotten more of a glimpse into life over half a century as I've been writing for a senior magazine for more than a dozen years. Each month, I get a couple assignments to find someone 50 or older to write about - sometimes it's their occupation, sometimes it's an unusual hobby, sometimes it's for the sports section. I meet a ton of inspiring seniors and I often find myself thinking, "Gosh I hope I'll be like that when I'm that age."
Once in a while I encounter an older person who is just really grumpy and I just think to myself that they must have had quite a rough life to have that kind of outlook. I'm often right -- when I get more under the surface, I learn that they endured some tough things.
Most often, though, the people I meet are so kind and sweet and I wonder what kind of old lady I'll be. There are so many ways it could go. There are:
The adventurous type who goes cliff diving or para sailing or jumps out of a plane.
The grandmotherly type who makes cookies for all the children in the neighborhood and hands out dollars to them.
The kind who yells at kids to get off the lawn.
One who heads south for the winter.
The kind who sits back quietly in a chair and observes.
The church going old ladies who say "God Bless You" to everyone they meet and sing in the choir and join a bible study.
One who travels the world in old age, going places they've always dreamed about.
The crazy one who dances at weddings with the young whipper snappers.
The kind who will drive 20 miles to go to a store where bread is 30 cents less a loaf (burning $3.80 in gas along the way.)
One who gets 20 cats after she has an empty nest (no never mind - this isn't going to happen. I'm not really fond of cats and will never own more than one dog.)
One who takes up painting or ceramics or some other artistic form.
Someone who travels the country with my husband in an RV.
The kind that doesn't step outside their hometown.
I guess I'll just be me, but with more life experience and hopefully adding more things to the mix that I've wanted to do and put off. I do know that I'm looking forward to it more than I'm interested in finding a fountain of youth.