What do rising meat prices and falling asleep in a rocker have in common? Well, they are two subjects that I SWORE as a kid I would either never a) discuss or b) find myself doing and yet here I am. Proud owner of both. But that’s just it…I’m not exactly happy about it. The older I get, the more déjà vu moments I seem to have wherein I can hear my much younger self, a mere pipsqueak if you will, swearing up and down that, “I would NEVER…”, while adding in the way exaggerated eye roll. Parents know all too well what I am referring to here. Indeed, these stark, middle-age realizations have recently left my husband and I thinking about all of the other atrocities we have committed against our former selves as the all-knowing youth that we were. And, you know what we discovered? The list, our list of ‘nevers’, is fairly extensive much to our own chagrin. Let’s see if perhaps some of these realizations also ring a bell with you?
GOING TOWARD THE LIGHT
I remember sitting on the den bed with my mom many a time helping her thread a needle thinking, Why can’t she see the end? It’s so obvious. I also remember having to read aloud a lot of fine print materials when she or my dad would declare how ridiculous it was that one needed a magnifying glass to read basic instructions or important mail. Of course, if you are eight and your eyesight is 20/15 you have no issues doing either of the aforementioned. At age forty-something however, it seems as though our eyes don’t adjust the same way that they used to; although, we prefer to blame the microscopic size of the print as my parents once did. Regardless, the truth of the matter is that my husband and I find ourselves standing under lamps or seeking out bright overhead lights more often than not in order to read various things. In fact, as I sit in my beloved rocker typing out this blogpost, I’m enjoying my newly purchased reading light, a.k.a. magnifying glass. Its super brilliant LED bulbs purported to last over 50,000 hours was a big selling feature since I think I’m going to need them from here on in. Sigh.
“MEMORIES…ALL ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT”
The above lyric from Barbara Streisand’s infamous Cats‘ song seems to resonate a little more with us at this stage in life. Gone are the days when our memories were sharper than the average Henckels’ knife. Somehow, walking a grand total of seven steps from the living room to the kitchen is enough time to forget what task it was that we actually got up to do, eating excluded :-). What I would like to know is when and how the ever elusive process of growing forgetfulness infiltrates our grey matter such that everything becomes a fog and we are left to mourn our once sought-after photographic memory? Ah yes! The good ol’ childhood days when there was no need to study (wink, wink) since information could be easily retrieved by the mere glance of a page. Unfortunately, my parents did not buy into that logic and homework/studying was a must!
Isn’t it fascinating though, how with age, we have increasing difficulty remembering day-to-day things, yet we can recall the most obscure and useless facts from decades ago? My recollection of things hours/minutes ago is sketchy, yet I can remember my high school friends’ exact birth dates. If random birthday facts could actually help me get through my entire list at the grocery store, that would be super, but multiple experiences otherwise have proven that it doesn’t work that way. Having taken a few psychology courses in University, I would guess that it has something to do with our prefrontal cortex responsible for short-term memory and our hippocampus which catalogues and stores our long-term memories. While decreasing hormone levels have long been associated with fading memory, sugar consumption might also be responsible for our fogginess according to Dr. Mike Dow. Sadly, recent research has linked excess sugar to not only obesity and diabetes, but also to brain shrinkage and more seriously, diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. I’m a pretty healthy eater overall, but whole grains and dairy seem to be at the top of the list of no-no’s. What happened to the days when simply reducing cookie or ice cream binges was adequate? I mean, cutting out those things were bad enough. Now, my morning whole-grain cereal and milk likely puts me at the top of my sugar range for the day?! Things are getting worse by the minute with this aging bit. I’d happily eat more cruciferous veggies but….well, that’s a whole other issue that I shan’t get into for my sake and yours. Since I have managed to digress (another reality lately) from my original point, I forgot where I was all going with this–but I do have a little story that I think? relates to this subsection.
Forty years ago, I distinctly remember standing with my mom in the newly built Safeway store shortly after we moved houses. For some reason, the lady at the customer service counter required our new postal code (zip code) and my mom could NOT think of it. Turning to me after a minute or two of frustration, she asked if I knew it. Now, this little gem of a story, which my mom and I still giggle at to this day, would be even more fitting about age & forgetfulness if I were about to tell you that I looked up at the patiently waiting cashier and rattled off our six digit code like nothing. The truth is that all that I could come up with was the letter T, which I repeated again and again until the Safeway lady gave up on both of us and jokingly asked my mom if I was the local Tweety bird. Now to be fair, I was super young at the time and that’s the excuse that I am sticking to, but my mom had just filled out a million address change forms. How come she didn’t know? I wondered. Looking back, I commend her for even remembering to go and pick up groceries in the first place after a long, chaotic move with three children. In the life that I have come to know, I could totally see myself getting into the car, rounding the corner and wondering where it was exactly that I had planned to go.
The bright side about forgetfulness is that everything seems new all over again. Do you know what I mean? For instance, earlier this evening my husband referred to a movie that *we* had watched last weekend. The only problem is that I have zero, that’s nada!, recollection of what it was that he was referring to, even when given the outright title of the movie. It wasn’t until he finally said the name Winston Churchill that I was like, “Oh yah….right.” This scene, with movies, news, and the like, plays itself out again and again in our household, along with the stack of birthday and anniversary cards which coincidentally resemble each other year after year. I say kudos to us in the sense that our heartfelt messages to one another are at least consistent. Besides which, our lives shall never get dull re-discovering those things that we have said/done before. That’s the hope, anyway.
I’d like to think that I’ve always been a pretty kind and compassionate soul, but kids are kids and lessons are to be learned. Intuitively, I knew that comments about a person’s appearance were off limits and most of the time, I kept my inside voice to myself. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop me from wondering why it was that older people always seemed to sport some kind of weird hair situation, be it too much or too little? Little did I know back then that I would unwillingly join the “Hairy Situation” Club which I had vehemently vowed I would never become a member of. Never say never.
About a month ago, I found myself plucking an ungodly nose hair that clearly no one dared to tell me about. I caught a glimpse of the dark, unruly tendril in the sunlight reflecting off of our bathroom mirror leaving me utterly horrified and appalled. What the **** is that?! More importantly, I wondered how long I had been sporting the unsightly strand for? I bet the kids in the Dollarstore line not long before my shocking revelation thought exactly what I used to think, Good heavens! Doesn’t that lady know that her nose hair is out of control?! Having to trim the mole hair on my forearm has been a regular, though embarrassing task for years, but since we live in winterland most of the time, my hoodie fetish has thankfully covered the sometimes ghastly sight. My nose, however, is right smack in the middle of my face. Noticeable to anyone and everyone. Like come on! The good news is that I am not the only one here dealing with hair that doesn’t belong in lieu of other much needed hairs which seem to be disappearing. We all get there eventually and at least we can commiserate together, right? The fact that my husband and I can share in identifying each other’s stray locks is oddly amusing. For instance, his self-proclaimed ‘old man crazy’ eyebrow hairs have become a little more noticeable and unruly as of late. Thankfully, a telling side view from our mutual rocking chairs is all that is required to prompt us into some scissor action. Never underestimate the need for a good trimmer later in life.
A TO ZZZ’S PILLOW TALK
“How was your sleep? Did you take your pills? Have you had a bathroom trip today?” Not the most sensual questions to ask your loving partner, but seemingly necessary ones as the years creep up. If that doesn’t make sense to you, then you must be on the younger side of things still. In addition to hairs that go awry, our bodily functions and abilities also deteriorate with time and they become a daily topic of discussion. Let’s face it, if things aren’t working right it affects others, namely those that you bunk with, so it benefits those involved to help keep one another on track so to speak. However with fading memories as previously discussed, the need for smartphone dings and reminders, apps and notes increases along with visits to the doctor for some of the strangest phenomenon known to man and your mate, like it or not.
“Can that really happen? What IS that? How did that get there? Will it ever go away?“, are just a few of the questions you suddenly find yourself asking the doc. Luckily, knowing that medical professionals are well-rehearsed in what the body can/can’t and should/shouldn’t do helps lessen the shame (a little, anyway) and forge a newfound trust in your physician. As a couple, mutual trust and intimacy take on a WHOLE new meaning. Soon you find yourself requiring a whole medical team, i.e. chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage and physiotherapists, to maintain optimal body function. A plethora of health appointments begin to dot your calendars more than dinners and plans to go out. “Don’t forget your dentist appointment today.” “I’ll be home for supper after the chiropractor.” There is some solace in knowing that you and your significant other are in it for the long haul and it helps to share in jokes about what hurts, what isn’t working right and what doesn’t feel good on a given day. “All I did was turn over in bed and now my neck seems to be stuck to my left ear!”
Certainly, my husband and I have had to say and do some things that would have been absolutely cringeworthy to me as a youngster–Ewww! Are you kidding me? I would *NEVER… *Insert eyeroll. But, you do. It’s part of the whole relationship gig and the notion of give and take. While it may be a far cry from the happily ever after you dreamily imagine even as a twenty-something, it is also somehow endearing. Kind of. Now, if you would have told my whippersnapper self just one of the things that Darren and I have found ourselves privy to this past while, I’d have likely responded with, “Yah, I don’t think so…”, to the idea of what it truly means to be married.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CORNFLAKES?
Politics? Blech. Discussions about meat prices, the gas bill and taxes? Good heavens! I could never understand why my parents picked the most boring subjects on the face of the Earth to discuss with company amongst drinks, snacks and card-playing. One complaint seemed to lead to another and so on, and more often than not I was stuck in one of our brown, vinyl kitchen chairs politely nodding my head and half-listening/watching. Weren’t there better things to talk about? My friends and I were always laughing and talking about fun things. To be fair, many a laugh were exchanged amongst them and they all appeared to be having a good time; we did have company over a lot, so it couldn’t have been half bad for them.
Naturally, I wasn’t the one trying to raise multiple children during a huge economic downturn on one salary while keeping food on the table, the heat on and a roof over everyone’s heads. Me? I had a pair of Fancy Ass jeans, a banana comb and a palette of tri-coloured eyeshadows (pink, blue and purple to be precise), so what did I care as a teen? Oh man, the number of times that I heard, “As long as you live in this house…” regarding various rules, household & otherwise, along with ways to conserve money still echoes into my adulthood. The thermostat wasn’t to be touched EVER!, cooked peas in their entirety had to be eaten at the dinner table and toilet paper?!? Well, my dad was perpetually flabbergasted at where the heck it all went with only two ladies living in the house. Obviously, my dad failed to understand the concept of bee-hiving the roll for ultimate comfort.
As I have come to learn, my parents’ discussions and concerns were more than valid and now, my husband and I find ourselves delving into the very same topics that my parents repeatedly did. All that we need to complete the circle is those good old vinyl chairs from our dining set and you might mistake the present year for the year, 1990. Funny how your opinions change when YOU are the ones paying the bills and providing for each other, isn’t it? By the way, if you ever come over to our house for a visit: the bathroom tissue limit will be four squares, perhaps less but definitely no more; we will be serving dessert after you’ve eaten all of your cooked peas and the thermostat will be set to….22.5 degrees Celsius. Sorry to disappoint Dad, but a warm house is one promise that I decided to keep to my wee self;-).
TIME MARCHES ON
I grew up with two older brothers which meant that they had the opportunity to do things long before I could. I hated it! I always wanted to do what they did. I couldn’t WAIT until I got older. Then, I wouldn’t be left behind.
Turning ten was a big deal. “Welcome to the double digits!” everyone said. Thirteen was also an important one. I think kids see that age differently than parents since the teen years can be a little trying. I didn’t think that I was a know it all, as my parents claimed. I was. Then, came the big one….age sixteen. In Canada, that meant a driver’s license and perhaps a set of wheels to go with. I was fortunate in that respect and I loved my little red, Chevy S-10 with all of my heart. It had been written off by a neighbour in an accident and with a lot of time & TLC from the boys, it was mine. I looked forward to the freedom, my parents worried as one would expect and my brothers were happy not to have me undertow all the time. Those were fun years alright, but it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to reach age eighteen–my golden ticket to the clubs/bars here, even though I had frequented a few thanks to an altered ID of sorts. Hey, I was a kid.
With each milestone that passed along with my age, such as graduation, University, moving out, starting my career, etc., my parents commented on how quickly we were all growing up whilst fondly reminiscing about their own younger years. My twenties were savoury times of learning and partying, my thirties were a lengthy time for self-reflection, and my forties as a married professional have breezed on by leaving me to ponder how I got to this middle-age marker already. In three very short years, I will be turning fifty! Good friends and siblings will be nearing sixty or more. I remember when I thought forty was ancient and now it seems relatively young all things considered. That being said, I realize that I better relish each and every day leading up to the next decade and beyond. ‘Time goes by faster and faster the older you get,” my parents would say. They were right. Yes, I’ll say it again. THEY WERE (SO) RIGHT!!!
While I could jibber-jabber on about the many other ways in which we middle-agers have turned into what we once forbade, I will leave it at that for now. I’m sure that you can think of a few yourself. Feel free to comment below–I’d love to hear them! Meanwhile, my wrist hurts, my eyes are fuzzy, I have to take my reflux medication and I think? I was supposed to call someone.
Oh no, is that a wiry tickle in my…nose?!