On turning 60

I will turn 60 in twelve days. Years ago I attended a birthday party for a woman turning forty, a gorgeous woman with a handsome husband who lived in a really nice loft in Tribeca and from my standpoint at twenty-eight I thought, "Jesus, poor thing, she's so old." It was puzzling and slightly annoying to me that this woman was so beautiful and so happy and her husband seemed to adore her because she was so old. Old. I was 37 when my son was born and they had phased out the term "geriatric pregnancy" but they still recommended I have an amnio and the size of that needle and the cruelty of the indifferent doctor who nearly took a phone call halfway through (back in the day when phones were on walls). I was terrified of miscarrying because I was so old. I published my first novel when I was thirty-four and wasn't described as young. And I was so young. So unaware of how long life could be, so filled with shame at my "success" which was as ephemeral as my status as the youngest child, as brief as the first time I told a man I loved him and he said it back and I discovered how painful, how perfect it was to be loved, to be desired, to be left, to grieve to live.

And now I am past the age of my parents when they lost their eldest daughter for they were 58, she was 32, I was 26 and a completely neurotic, miserable mess. But I was young. I had an older lover and enjoyed placing my then flawless skin next to his and noticing how smooth, unblemished, perfect I was-and yes, I thought, forever young. But then my sister was killed, my parents aged, my father had a child with another woman and she was younger than me, far younger than me, so much younger that when I saw a picture of her I thought it was me but it wasn't. We both look like my father with impressive eyebrows and dimples.

Now, many things have changed. I no longer view forty as old, I no longer think I am going to succeed because I'm young and I no longer regard my life as something to be confronted but rather I see how much is behind me, distant in the rear view mirror and I want to spend the time remaining in a meaningful fashion, helping my beloved grown son be a good person, cherishing my husband, my sister and yes, my mother. My father died four years ago and the pain has lessened but not disappeared. he was my first critic, my first editor and before he died my sweetest supporter. My sister and me are finding a way to love one another without all the turmoil. After all, we are old and bickering sisters are funny when young but alarming in people my age. I recall a fight in an elevator, the two of us screaming at each other, I was working for her at the time, and then the elevator opened, acting like we were best friends. I don't have the energy to fight or dissemble like that anymore. Maybe Mick Jagger can still strut at 70+ but I'm no longer young no matter what my 91 (almost 92) year old mother says.


Popular Posts