This week I had an unexpected meltdown in my son's birthday. He turned 24 this week, and I found myself down the rabbit hole of math and aging. As soon as I woke up, on his birthday, I thought: Oh, it's my boy's birthday. I wish he was here, so we could go out to lunch together. I'm not that mom who wishes my kids were still in my nest, versus living their lives. I love that two of them are out of college and are happily living in places where they are happy, with people they love. My youngest left for college this year and loves it. I miss him, but the fact that he found a school he enjoys, is making friends, and is content, makes me happy. I wouldn't have it any other way. However, on days like today -- a birthday-- I just wish my son and I could go get sushi and hang out. Again, I woke up happy and content with how things are. I missed my boy for a moment, but I was glad that it's his birthday and he is in a good place. I was glad. Then, I got thinking about his actual birthday.
The day my son was born was one of the three greatest days of my life. No cliché or Hallmark commentary, but, the days my children were born were the three best days ever. And, while each of those days was grand beyond grand, my middle son's birth was truly fantastic. After having a C-section with my daughter, my first baby, it was such a relief and so incredible to have a healthy, 8 lb boy (my smallest baby), born with little medication and no surgery. Those final moments as I pushed, I clearly remember thinking: This is like running for the gold medal at the Olympics, and knowing you're about to win. Again, not a Hallmark version. I thought that in that moment. It was sublime. It was golden. And then, moments later, I had this spectacularly beautiful boy in my arms and the world just got grander. I remember it so clearly. It was a blink of the eye... just yesterday. It's not possible, that 24 years have passed! I won't pretend that those years were all easy, or they all sped by, but seriously, it is inconceivable that he is 24, my daughter is 26, and I (here it comes) was 29 when it all happened. Technically, 27 when my daughter arrived, but it's my son's birthday that got me spiraling! I was 29 years old! A baby. I can't even remember who that person was.
I can remember nursing that baby and staring for hours at his perfect little face. I wanted to just curl up and spend forever with him. He never cried-- seriously, do a background check, and old friends will tell you that he never cried. He smiled all the time and cooed. I remember just how sweet and easy he was. But, I don't really remember who that 29-year-old was. I don't know what I wanted, beyond those moments with my baby. It seems so strange that I was that young, and now, my baby turned 24 and I'm... well, you do the math.
It was bad enough that I was beginning to let math go to my head, but then a really ugly thing happened: This spinning, constantly moving, dizzying, whirrling ride that we're all on, shifted a little more, and... and I did more math. And that was the distinctly ugly moment, when the meltdown commenced and expanded. I realized that these past 24 years raced by at record speed, and well, that can only mean that the next 20+ years will do the same. Right? I've heard that time moves much faster as you age. So, if you're doing the math along with me: when my son has his 44th birthday, I will be nine months away from (oh God, I can't think it!) 74... which is just shy of 75!
Seventy-five can only mean a few things (from a meltdown perspective). I will be at that point where my kids will be saying things like: "Do you really think mom and dad (cause dad's going down just ahead of me!) are OK on their own?" "Mom drove to the wrong doctor again, today." "E, just let it go, you know she's almost 75. Just let her pick the restaurant." My daughter will still be telling her brother what to do. He'll get pissed off and tell her to mind her own business, that he's not a kid, that it's his birthday. My kids will be having second thoughts about leaving their kids with us. "They are nearly 75... this wears them out." (Um, for the record, grandpa will be 75 already!) Holy crazy math, Batman! I will be older than my mother was, when she died five years ago.
Oh God. My mind began racing, along with my rapidly aging heart (that probably has plaque building up),as I typed. My left knee ached, in response to the mere idea of another 20 years of yoga. I reassured it by noting that it would probably be replaced by then. I went to run some errands and ran into friend-- a super healthy, active friend. I told him about my emotional crisis, and calmly (like I mean: hardly blinked at my near hysteria), he informed me that: "It's just a number." Just a number? JUST A NUMBER? Easy for him to say! First of all, he's a year younger than me (and his kids are much younger) and he had just come from some crazy mountain biking route, before work. He smiled, and said again, "It's really just a number. You have to remember that."
Remember that? Hello, can you say dementia? I'm hurdling toward 74, as we speak!
An aside: I am convinced that he is just covering, or clearly in denial. He may feel different when his boy hits 24, and he realizes that he's going to be 73. Wait, then I'll be nearing 75. This is a slippery slope. I don't like this ride. I want to get off! Wait, no! I guess getting off means... way worse than 75 right?
He continued to try and talk me off the ledge. "You know, 70 is totally different today; people are much healthier and living longer," he said. Oh God, this is like the "50 is the new 40" pep talk women get as they head toward 50, even as we see the lines multiplying, the grays taking over, the skin drooping further... Please! YOU are healthier, I have some serious improvements to make, for 74 to not be freaking me out right now. "I hear you, but just keep reminding yourself: it's only a number." Yeah, a big number that spells old. (When their son is turning 24, I plan to stop by and talk numbers... see where he's at then)
Instead, the entire day, thoughts of 74 swirled in my head and evidence accrued. As I returned to the produce aisle for the third time, for something I'd forgotten, dementia was strongly on my mind. I looked at the befuddled older woman looking for supplements at Costco, as her husband led her by the elbow to another section. Me in 20 years? If my husband (who is 17 months older) ever guides me by the elbow, I'll lose it. Seriously. The message I got from the birthday boy about memes, and his assumption that it would confuse me... I (mostly) know what a meme is. I'm not too old to learn new things... yet. This did lead to the realization that there may be more and more things that my kids know, and I'm in the dark about. Does that imply that I will be that older parent who waits for their kids to drop by and figure out the new-fangled Teleporter (they are eventually coming, right?), or whatever version of a remote we're using then. Will I be that much older woman in yoga, who always uses the wall for poses? Actually, I do need the wall for Dancer, or Warrior 3, so am I already on the wall-yoga trajectory. By 74 will I be doing all my poses leaning against the wall?
It's all just too much. The idea of all of those things, and the fact that my boy is 24 and that 24 years slipped by in a whisper, is just too much. Of course I get my friend's point. They're all just numbers. But when you look at the math, the numbers just start adding up and, in those strange moments when reality slaps me hard, the numbers scare the begeezus out of me. When I imagine the life decisions and events that will come in the next 24 years; loss of already older friends and family; new family members that I didn't personally create (sons/daughters-in-law, grandchildren); career choices and life choices that my three kids will make; new wrinkles and a face that looks less and less like the face it was when I started this ride. It is all very big and so unsettling.
A few days later I woke up and returned to my previous state. The panic subsided. The meltdown retreated. I'm a couple of days older than I was when I had my meltdown. My son is 24 and a couple of days. Seems like it was just yesterday that he was turning 24. Oh, right... time does fly. Or, maybe, it's just the way you do the math.
Does aging rattle your cage? Are you almost 70, and how do you feel? Share your thoughts in the comment section. Tell me what you think. I'm listening.
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