The Road Ahead


Tomorrow is my birthday and I will be sixty nine years old. That number sounds ancient to me. It is a place in time that I have never really imagined being. Time is relative when it comes to me because I still feel as though I am little more than middle aged. Surely I will be thirty nine tomorrow, going on forty next year. Where did I lose the thirty years that I don’t remember passing by so quickly? One day I was still young and the next I became a member of AARP and qualified for Medicare. It’s enough to boggle the mind.

I’m still able to perform complex mathematics problems and show youngsters how to do them as well. I write almost everyday and read constantly, but not without glasses. My vision went south some time back along with my ability to recall small things like where I have left one of the dozens of pairs of glasses that I keep on hand. I tried wearing one of those chains around my neck that keep glasses handy but they just didn’t work for me. They got in the way mostly of my vanity.

I can’t run well anymore. My knees yell at me if I even try. I’ve shrunk about three inches because I have developed osteoporosis like my grandmother and several of my aunts. Heredity can be a real bitch sometimes. I used to be a tall girl, but now I am rather short. It makes me wonder if my grandma was always a small person or if her own troubles with brittle bones made her much tinier than she once was.

Mostly I’m rather healthy. People predict that barring some unforeseen accident or a disease that sneaks up on me I will live long like my grandfather who made it to one hundred eight. If that’s the case I have almost forty more years to go. I’ll need to figure out what to do with all of that time. I hope I am able to use it as well as Grandpa did. He was an avid reader who devoured books like chocolate bonbons, and then proceeded to discuss every detail in them when someone came to visit. His mind was as clear as a sparkling lake up until the very last weeks of his life, but he had grown weary by then. He often spoke of being ready to end his marathon time here on earth and start a new run in heaven. He had lost all of his friends and most of his relatives including all three of his children. Somehow he managed to stay optimistic in spite of the fact that he had spent all of money and lived from one Social Security check to the next. He had planned well for retirement, but nobody expects for a life to last as long as his did,

There is still so much of the world that I hope to experience. I love the idea of continuously learning and traveling. It is a habit that I have followed and it provides me with great pleasure. I like to stay abreast of changes and I truly hope that I never become a dotty old fuddy-duddy, a dotard if you will. One reason that I enjoy working with children is that they keep me young. I get a kick out their antics and I find that on the whole they are quite polite and wonderful. The idea that today’s kids are spoiled and badly behaved is a myth perpetuated by grouchy individuals who abhor change. The truth is that our future is in good hands from what I have seen. The world will surely keep on moving along and things will get better regardless of who is living at the White House.

Somehow getting older makes me far happier and more content than I have ever been. I view life with a great deal more appreciation. All of my competitive inclinations have fallen by the wayside. I realize how very lucky I have been from the cold November day when I was born to the present. I may not have accumulated much wealth, but I can say without reservation that I have always been loved. There is absolutely nothing better than that, and I now realize that more so than ever before.

I still harbor hopes and dreams, but now they are more for my grandchildren than myself. I want to watch them finding ways to use their talents and build their own lives. If they are half as fortunate as I have been then the world will be very good to them. I pray that their inevitable trials will be few and that they will possess all of the skills needed to deal with them. I myself had so much support any time that I was struggling. There always seemed to be a relative, neighbor, teacher, coworker or friend to help me overcome even the most horrific situations. I treasure all of the people who have encouraged me, some of whom never knew how much they actually meant to me.

I think back to my many birthdays. My mom always worked hard to make my day as special as possible, and did so until the very day that she died. Her family had been so poor that their only gift each year had been a single nickel. She and her siblings continued the tradition of sending each other nickels, and I thought it a beautiful gesture of love. My mom never missed brining me a cake and a very carefully chosen gift which always reminded me of how important I was to her. I find myself missing her bit more each year. She was with me from the very beginning, forging that special bond that only a mother is capable of doing.

Much of my family is coming to my house to help me celebrate my birthday tomorrow. Family has been the best gift that I have ever enjoyed. I honestly don’t know what I would do without all of them. We are a loud and crazy bunch that sometimes confounds and annoys other people. I don’t think those who shy away from us can tell if we are yelling at each other or just being a bit too overjoyed to be together. I know that some folks can’t handle our antics, but I can’t imagine being any other way than we just naturally are. Our exuberance is simply the outward manifestation of our unending love.

So this old woman plans to savor every minute that I have. At this point there is no telling whether my days are numbered or I have a long way to go. I’ve learned to take one day at a time and to roll with whatever happens. I may not hear as well as I once did but I am a survivor and I am far tougher than I appear to be. It’s been a great ride thus far. It’s going to be fun to see where the rest of my life takes me. I’m more than ready for the adventures that lie along the road ahead.

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