On Being Eighty

This week I passed a milestone when I moved from 79 years to the big 80. Most of my friends had already reached this significant age. Now I have to chug through my 80’s to reach another important achievement: the even bigger 90. And I am not too sure I want to do that.

My family background does not really promise me a long life. My only sibling died at 58 and my father at 69. Mind you their lives were cut short by cancer. Apart for my maternal grandmother who was in her 80’s, my other grandparents died before they were 80 years old. My mother was the exception; she lived until she was 97.

I can’t ever remember wanting to reach a particular old age when I was young. I’ve heard people say they’d like to turn 100. As i grew older and had more experience of aging in myself and others, I’ve decided it is too tough to be very old. You are likely to have physical and mental problems and your friends and family member tend to die before you. My mother gave up going to funerals even though she could have attended them. I watched her health deteriorate and heard her wish she were dead. That convinced me I had no desire to reach a ‘grand old age.’

In fact, I used to predict that I would die at the age of 87 of a cancer different from the ones that killed my family. Well, one of those predictions has come true so maybe I should be heedful of the second one. If I have 7 years left, what should I do with them? I do hope I don’t have to stay in self isolation for the whole time. That would be depressing. I also hope I can avoid ending my days in a nursing home. It would be good if I finished the #$%^^%$#@ novel that is messing with my mind. There is no good reason for me to have delayed completing the next draft except for some strange covid-19 side effect that drives me to bake rather than to write.

It would be pleasant to report that I am wiser at 80 than I was at 40 but alas, that isn’t true. In fact I may be less wise. As a teenager, I wanted to be certain about the important things as I aged. I needed to recognize black from white (not in racial terms) and right from wrong. That didn’t happen and the important stuff seems to have turned many shades of grey and the differences between right and wrong are muddy rather than clear.

So I reached 80 and I guess that is a positive thing even though without personal contact it was a strange birthday. As my daughter said, it was one I will not easily forget. (Unless I develop dementia) Am I doomed to write about aging from now on? Stay tuned to find out.