How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? — Satchel Paige
Mr. Clark turned 55 this week and I must say that sounds like a daunting age. The age old (and never cliché when you’re the one asking it) question is, “Where did all the time go?” One minute you’re graduating from college and the next you’re eligible to join AARP. In between there is a whirlwind of child rearing, family and work experiences, good times, hard times, sad times and so many wonderful memories. And, while 55 may sound “old” to some and “young” to others, part of what all those quickly passing years teaches you is that each and every age you reach is a blessing.
If you had asked me what a scary sounding age was at 24, I would’ve said 30. At 30, the answer was 35 and when that pushing 40 thing started to happen, I shut down and took a few years off from counting how old I was. Around 42, when I started hearing that I “looked good for my age,” I got okay with being “old” again and I cruised on through to 49 relatively age-trauma free. In fact, when I took my still mobile and quite feisty 90-year-old grandmother to another grandchild’s wedding in Mexico when I was 45, I realized with some happiness that my life might actually only be half over.
Somewhere in my 49th year it hit me that I was about to have use the number 50 to describe my age and for awhile the thought of that made me unable to remember what year I was born. It wasn’t Alzheimer’s or early onset dementia – it was conscious denial. If I couldn’t tell you what year I was born in, you couldn’t do the math.
My most recent birthday made me 52 which feels just fine. With the exception of a few minor aches and pains, I still feel pretty much the way I always have. I don’t feel like I’m over 50 except sometimes, when the sight of that lady in the mirror catches me by surprise and, somehow, based on how good I feel, she should look younger than that.
Good genes are, of course, a key component to aging well; Mr. Clark and I are both blessed with that. His family stays healthy way on up in years and my family, well, the grandmother I traveled to Mexico with is now 96 and still going strong. My other grandmother has a sister still living on her own and driving a car at the age of 105. Imagine that!
Copious amounts of eye cream are another thing I believe in when it comes to aging gracefully. I remember hearing a woman I worked with when I was 22 or so talking about how she managed to look so young at the ripe old age of 38, which at the time sounded really old to me. It was exercise and eye cream…Well, I thought, if it worked so well for her, then taking those two precautions surely wouldn’t hurt me and so far, they have served me well.
Humidity also helps. Even though I’ve never gotten used to the climate here in the South, friends my age back in my native Colorado lack the “glow” I have; maybe it’s all that sweating I do...
Mr. Clark is like me — he doesn’t really look or act his age. In my mind a 55-year-old guy is sort of old and stodgy and grumpy and gray — weight of the world on his shoulders, not much fun to be around. Not Mr. Clark, he has the gift of a perennial child’s temperament in that he has a light heart and a cheerful air about him. He’s not a worrier; he wouldn’t know how to hold a grudge; and he rarely gets angry. He sings a lot; he really likes his work and he has several hobbies he enjoys. Those things, I’m sure, have contributed to his youthfulness; the only way you might begin to guess Mr. Clark’s age is his salt & pepper hair.
For his birthday, our daughter gave Mr. Clark a card that said, “Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” Pope John XXIII said that. I don’t know how old he was when he said that, but I bet he was no spring chicken. I do know that if Mr. Clark was a wine, he’d continue to improve with age because as a man, he certainly has done that.
Robert Browning said, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be…” and for years I thought that was really cheesy and unrealistic. Not now though; these days I have it posted on the fridge and the thought makes me happy every time I look at it.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.