You can easily fool yourself about the fact that you’re aging in appearance. For a while. I did it for many years. Today, there are multitudes of cosmetic peddlers who are more than happy to convince you that their products will truly reverse time or make it stand still. They suggest that life will be happier and better if youth remains your obsession as it is theirs. Living in this bleeped up culture, we all drink some of the Kool- Aid, consciously or otherwise.
We lived in an academic community when I was in my thirties. I was certain that I fit right in with students and that anyone seeing me in a dance class with these college age kids could easily mistake me for one of them. I never did a fact check on that belief, but was more than happy to live with the illusion of prolonged youth.
By the time I was in my mid-fifties, there was no escape. I confronted my personal moment of truth when my first granddaughter was born. Initially I felt pure excitement. Then followed the inevitable assessment that my new life category carried some weightier significance along with it.
I understood for the first time, what had heretofore been an incomprehensible response from my father when I told him I was pregnant with my first child.
“That’s funny,” he said when given the news. He didn’t mean funny ha ha. He wasn’t laughing. He understood that an invisible line had been crossed. He’d been bumped up a generation. Mortality loomed larger.
The first time I pushed my granddaughter around in her McClaren stroller in her gentrifying, hip Brooklyn neighborhood, I was quite convinced that people would think she was my late-in-life daughter. Didn’t happen. When I did interact with others on that first stroll, they would immediately say something to the effect of, “Isn’t is great to be a grandparent?”
No one ever considered me the mother of this infant. Not for one minute.
Last night, my husband and I took our youngest two and a half year old granddaughter to swimming class. My husband smiled a loving smile at her as she bravely floated on her back and gamely jumped into water over her head. I realized I had the same sort of adoring smile on my face. We were surrounded by energetic, youthful parents and their exuberant toddlers. My energy level and sprightliness were no match.
There is no denial of our place on the aging hierarchy anymore. Replacing it is something better perhaps; an acceptance and gratitude for the sweetness and many pleasures of our continuing role in the continuum of life. And, at last, I can honestly say, no more fooling!