Here we go! Five months and four days into my 80th year… 80 is a scary number. Every time I say it, it sits like a lump on my tongue. It is a number my mind cannot wrap itself around. I can’t say ‘I am 80’ yet; I will not say that until the first of August of this year 2022… I am still 79 creeping towards 80 (and there it is again), but even that is a lie: I am over five months into my 80th year of life, so I am 79+.
I try to think if there is anything I could do before that I cannot do now… Run, perhaps. Yes, I guess I could run if obliged to by an oncoming car or a spooky monster, but then I have never been a runner. Running, jumping, sports in general… not my thing. My mother was golfer (she could never get me interested although she tried), my father a hunter (a sport I gave up the day I wounded a wild duck and then had to put it out of its misery with my own little hands, ughhh), I am a butt-in-chair writer: not considered a sport. I can’t even remember what I did in gym class in high school. The only sport I truly remember doing and loving was horseback riding… Oh, and water-skiing. I was around 16-18, and I felt it was something I was good at. Had dominated the slalom and was learning to ski on the round board, doing turns and such, when I got married and water-skiing, actually even trips to Acapulco, ended. When I got married horseback riding ended too: both sports entailed either having money or travelling or both. My first husband was not a sportsman either, so we didn’t do sports. Even when we went to live on a golf course and could see the golfers strolling past (or peering into our garden looking for their misdirected ball), we never even tried to take up the sport (that was my mother’s thing, and the last thing in the world I wanted was to be like my mother).
Walking in the woods was something I loved too, from a very young age when we lived in New Canaan, Connecticut and our property was bounded on three sides by deep woods; walking in the woods with a dog… my favorite. Occasionally –not very often now- I will take a stroll with the dog, but never in the woods anymore for fear of twisting an ankle or falling down and not being able to get up. Walk on the road is better, safer… not as much fun or as pretty, but definitely safer. Yesterday, I was walking along the sidewalk near my apartment building, and I must have run my toe into a ridge in the pavement because my whole body went flying straight out and landed ¡Wap! on my stomach. Not pleasant and a miracle I didn’t break anything (a rib, my wrist, a finger). If I had –as luck would have had it- I needn’t have worried for an ambulance was coming up right behind me and stopped immediately upon seeing my fall in case I needed help. The driver was very kind, helped me back up and asked if I was alright… I was, except for feeling stupid and achy all over. I brushed myself off, thanked the ambulance driver and the people who had stopped their car alongside to help also, and continued –stiffly- my walk home. I wonder if I will be able to do that when I am 80…
I have coffee every morning with a ‘gal’ who is 20 years older than I am… she just turned 99 on November 19th last. Ninety-nine!!! That’s practically a lifetime away from my age. Will I get there? No… wrong question. I am here now: 79.
Anyway, I have said nothing about what the title to this piece suggests: humility learned with age. Yes, it is humbling because there is really no choice: I either accept (humility) or do not accept (suffering). I have noticed that, if I do not resist being this age, I am
humbled by gratitude… gratitude to have been allowed to reach this ‘advanced’ age in good health, sound of body and… well, mind is doing okay although memory is suffering every day more… What to do…? I forget things, but then I have always been forgetful, it is just getting a worse, bit by bit. I learn to write everything down, I learn to look at my calendar every day, I learn to ask people to remind me if necessary: that is humility. But humility also comes with accepting my increasing forgetfulness without beating myself up; my slower walking without feeling impatience; my aches and pains without complaining… accepting that I am aging and being damn grateful for it. If I continue this path of humility and reach –perhaps- 90, I will perhaps reach sainthood before I die. I won’t know it though, because to believe one is a saint is an act of pride, and I will be so terribly humble by then… well, we’ll see.