Thursday, September 20, 2012

She Aged

What is "age"?
The amount of years you've been on planet earth?
The length of time you've been alive?
A number by which you are judged?
A death-sentence?

Well, "age" depends on your age, I guess.

Because we love aging in our youth.
We can't wait to be thirteen.

But around twenty-two and a half, 
we start realizing that the milestones have ceased
the benefits seem less important
and we start longing 
just to be twenty-one,

The ages that matter.
The times in our lives when we were valued most.
Possibly envied most.

But what about twenty-four years old?
It's serving me well.
And what about thirty-three?
That seems pretty good.
Is forty-seven worth mentioning?
I bet it is to someone who died at forty-six.

The years are gifts.
And yet we fight it.
After twenty-one, we hide our age.
We gripe at the tell-tale signs of our length on earth.
We pretend like life isn't happening.
As. It's. Happening. 
We give vague answers to the question that seems to penetrate our soul:
"How old are you?"

I am twenty-four. 
I'm proud of those years.
I've worked for them.
I've earned them.
We all have.

And I watch forty-somethings cower at this question of age,
and in my head I'm thinking:
"No, please don't hide from this question with embarrassment 
as if there is something you've done wrong. 
You've aged like the rest of us and 
you've made it farther than I have. 
You're alive!"   

But Nana feels differently.
Nana spends her days and nights living
(kind of)
in an assisted living facility
for people who are literally losing their minds.

She asks me: Have you seen my mother?
I should know, apparently, because she asks,
Were you at my wedding?
Are we going to the mountains?
Who are you?
And most often: When am I going home?
As we walk out the door and leave her behind.

It's excruciating.
It's not right.
It shouldn't be this way.
But it is.
And what did she do to deserve this?
She aged.

I'm unsure yet of how to "age gracefully."
Is it acceptance?
Is it hair dye?
Is it giving up?
Is it simply growing up?

It must be somewhere between longing for the next youthful milestone and hating every birthday.

It must be somewhere between disrespecting and pitying those who have aged and wishing for the past. 
We must come to terms with age.
Because age will happen to each of us equally, systematically.
To some with furrowed brows and resentment.
And to some with open arms and a grateful spirit.

But age will come.