On my late father-in-law's 90th birthday, I asked him what 90 felt like. "It feels like 50," he said, "except when I get up from a chair."
Now that I'm in my 60s, I'm beginning to know what he means. I'm active; I hike, I do Pilates, I work out with weights. But everything hurts. It's as if I've entered a world where there are two choices, aches and pains or death. So I move forward, but the telltale signs that I'm not 40 anymore are evident. It starts with the refrigerator. The other day my son came over and he opened my freezer to get some ice and I saw him staring.
"Close the door," I said. "It's not good to keep the freezer door open."
"Not good for what?" he asked. "The four ice packs you have in there?"
It was true. I had no food in there, unless you consider vodka and Weight Watchers ice cream cones food. But I did have an impressive variety of frozen compresses that fit whichever body parts needed attention. I had two that wrapped around the shoulder, two that velcroed around the knee, and two odd-shaped ones with individual ice pockets on it that were good for lying on. I used to have one compress for everything which worked fine until one day my husband and I needed it at the same moment.
He opened the freezer door and I assumed he was being gallant until he absentmindedly pushed in front of me and whipped out the frozen compress. "Shoulder's sore," he said. He wrapped the pack around his shoulder and left the room. "I was going to use that ice pack," I said. "I twisted something in my knee hiking." "Okay," he answered. "I'll give it to you in one minute." I waited in the kitchen until 20 minutes later when he came in and tossed the ice pack to me which at that point had room temperature water in it and the consistency of a dead fish. So I went out and bought two of every cold compress device designed for various body parts. These days it is not unusual to see us sitting in bed looking as if we are readying ourselves to be cryogenically preserved.
There are those telltale signs of being in my 60s everywhere. A while back I programmed the Easy Listening station into my Sirius-XM radio. I have NPR and CNN in there too, but I find myself hopping between Sinatra, Broadway show tunes and Kenny G most of the time. When I give my car to a valet parker, I switch to KISS-FM so they don't think they're parking the car for some geezer. But probably the three pairs of reading glasses in the cup holders are a dead giveaway.
I can't remember names or, sometimes, even faces. At an event I was at not long ago, a woman came up to me and gave me hugs and said how great it was to see me and I played that "great to see you too" game while I'm thinking she doesn't even look vaguely familiar. And worse, a couple of months later, the same person came up to me at a restaurant and said a big "hi again" and then she looked at me and said "you have no idea who I am, do you?" It turned out that we worked together years ago, sat in the same office, and we were even both pregnant during that time. She reminded me that we had shared one massively oversized pink sweater on various occasions towards the end of our pregnancies and apparently we had many laughs about this at the time. I remembered none of this.
I keep testing myself to see if the signs could be early stage Alzheimer's but when I Google the warning signs it says something like, "it's normal to forget where you put your keys, but you should see a doctor if you forget what your keys are for."
Which brings me to Eileen Fisher. A lot of things bring me to Eileen Fisher. Whether I have a special dinner to go, or a vacation is on the horizon or I've lost five pounds or gained 10, all paths lead me to Eileen Fisher. I know that the brand is trying hard to appeal to a younger crowd as well and I don't have access to reports on their demographics. I can only tell you that I have shopped at Eileen Fisher stores in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and her boutiques in various department stores, and I have never seen any women in there under 50. If Eileen Fisher is reading this, I want her to know that her clothes are lovely and I appreciate her social consciousness. I am not trying to disparage her brand. I'd walk around naked half the time if it weren't for Eileen Fisher. I'm just saying that, no matter how hard Eileen might protest, a closet filled with Eileen Fisher clothes is one of the telltale signs that you've entered post mid-life.
And then there is what many people think has been the final straw. The thing that even I never believed myself capable of, the thing that I have always thought is what you do just before you put one foot in the grave ... no, to be accurate, what I always thought was the definition of putting one foot in the grave. I have taken up golf.
My husband has been playing golf pretty consistently for about 15 years. I have stayed in our marriage despite this. It was not easy because I have had something akin to contempt for the sport. I know this is not rational or even fair. And then one day, very recently, I walked into our kitchen where my husband was on the phone with Mary the golf pro, telling her he wasn't available for a 4:00 lesson on Sunday. I knew Mary was the golf pro at the club where my husband played because I'd endured years of "Mary said this and Mary said that." Just as he was about to hang up, I found these words coming out of my mouth, "I'll take the lesson." My husband looked immediately elated and I was immediately sorry but, too late because he said, "Mary, my wife is going to take that lesson," and he hung up faster than you can say "I'll have an Arnold Palmer."
It turns out I'm not bad for a beginner. I come home from a lesson with Mary and I find myself telling my husband, "Mary said this" or "Mary said that." He and I aren't competitive about golf but we are about which one of us Mary likes teaching more. Some of my friends who have shared the antipathy that I previously had for golf, feel that I am a traitor. But for each one of those women, I have found another one who has said to me, "I'm playing golf too! Let's play together sometime." And, no surprise, these are women of a certain age. My age, that is. I wouldn't say that I'm apologetic that I've taken up golf although I do find myself telling some of my more judgmental friends that I'm in the dressing room at Eileen Fisher when they text me and I'm really on the golf course.
I suspect that those telltale signs will keep accumulating. At least for now I stay current enough to say "he tweeted," not "he twittered," I can recognize 25 percent of the actors who are featured in People magazine, I know how to copy and paste on the computer and among my friends I am the go-to person to help them with the settings on their cell phones. The dream would be that in 30 more years I'll still be around just like my father-in-law was and, hard as it will be to get up from that chair, I'll be grateful that I'm still standing.