Thoughts of Growing Old
by Alden Davis
April 7, 2024
Well, who am I kidding?  This is not really thoughts on growing old.  I am old.  Older than dirt.  Older than any of my living relatives.  I always thought I could count on Cousin Betty to be the oldest one, but she went and died on me. 
Recently I learned of the death of a woman I had worked with.  I knew her for 42 years.  I was sad.  Not that I liked her; in fact, I didn’t.  But when someone that you knew for 42 years dies, it leaves a little hole in the fabric of your own life.
I miss a lot about being young.  I miss sleeping all night without waking even once.  I miss rousing, half awake, to sweet kisses from my lover - and not having to rush off to the bathroom.  I miss running just for the hell of it.  I miss having not a thought for what the future holds, for there were untold eons before I would even think of being old.
I miss my body’s agility and endurance.  What if today I had to study until 3 am and then take an 8 o’clock exam?  I couldn’t do it, but back then I could.  I miss working outside all day, going to bed a little sore, but bouncing right back the next morning.
I miss knowing it is all before me, not mostly behind me.  There is nothing like thinking, “Maybe I’ll be rich.  Maybe I’ll become Dr. Alden.  Maybe I’ll meet the man I dream of.”  Now I know I’ll never be rich, never obtain a PhD.  And I have met the man I dreamed of – three times, in fact.  But twice I woke up one day years later and realized deeply and surely that I had made the wrong choice of mate.  What’s really hard is figuring out what to do about it.  Twice those dreams turned out to be only dreams, but the third one stuck.
I miss my feet hurting from dancing half the night.  Now they just hurt for no reason.  I miss washing my face with never a thought for makeup.
Most of all, I think I miss being in love.  Being in love is different from loving, you know.  Being in love is all fast-beating hearts, the delicious thrill from just hearing his voice over the phone.  Loving is steadfast, permanent.  Loving will be with you always, but it was tremendous fun to be “in love” - while it lasted.
There are lots of good things about being old.  I’m not uncertain about who I am and what I want to be.  What I am now is pretty much it.  I would be very surprised if anything but death changed my present choice of life partner.  We are both veterans of the marriage wars and we are in it together for the time we have left. 
There is so much wisdom gained in old age.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had even half that wisdom in our first 30 or 40 years?  Even a quarter of the wisdom would help a lot.  There are so many things I would have done differently, if I had known then what I know now.  The first thing I would do over would be to stand up to my mother.  She pretty much ruled our household and tried to rule me even as an adult.  I stopped that finally by literally moving out of her physical reach.  Which leads to the second thing I would do differently.  I would never, ever, marry at 18.  How can anyone possibly pick a mate at 18 that will still be worth having at 30?  Anyone who manages that has my deepest admiration.  And I would dare to be myself, even if the rest of the world disapproved. 
Now the touch of tiny hands patting my face – that I would do more than once.  If I could do it over, there would be at least two pairs of tiny hands and two little voices calling me Mommy.  It would be nice to rear a boy, but another girl would be fine too.
And money?  In my do-over I would start with my very first paycheck and put away ten percent.  What was my first pay?  Maybe $20.  I could have spared $2.  One day that $2 and hundreds like it would have been very useful.  I learned that lesson, but really much later than I should have.
If I could do it over, I would take lots more vacations.  I would plant more flowers – perennials so they would come back even when I grew old.  I would indulge one or two of those silly ideas I had, like dropping everything and just traveling for a year or so.  I would flirt with more guys and marry fewer.  I would eat ice cream for supper, even though it’s not good for me.
I know I can’t do it over, but if I could, would I?  I kind of don’t think so, not unless I could take with me the wisdom and common sense I have gathered over the years.  I don’t think I would like to be as naïve and clueless as I was in my 20s.  Nor as “save the world” as I was in my 30s.  No, I think I will stick with old age, but it really was so much fun to be young.
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