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Entries in aging (3)

Sunday
Jan082017

2016 Biggies: Fifty and College-Bound

I'm 50 now. Actually, closer to 51 as of this writing. My last post was about turning 49 -- simultaneously seems like 20 years ago, and 20 minutes ago.

Fifty isn't terrible, but it's definitely different. Yes, many people are living longer, remaining physically and intellectually active for decades beyond their 50th jubilee. We're a good-looking bunch...for our age. And examples of folks pursuing new careers and accomplishing amazing things only because of the seasoning that comes with years lived truly inspires me. But, it feels like a bittersweet graduation of sorts. Congratulations! You made it through life's undergraduate school! Graduate programs are highly individualized and length of study is unknown. Good luck! Commencement date for advanced life degrees varies. And, it's curtains.

In addition to being 50, I'm now the mother of a college student. My oldest son, Parke, graduated from high school and is studying something...somewhere. He's as prepared and ready as a young person can be in this fast-paced, competitive, complicated time. He left excited and happy!

My college transition experience was the antithesis of Parke's.

August 1984 -- Austin, Texas
I watched the rental car back away. My parents in the front seat, Dad driving, looking over his shoulder to avoid hitting something -- and probably avoid looking at me -- Mom sitting beside him, and my 15-year-old brother peering between them from the backseat. My family said goodbye to me, returned their rental car, and boarded a plane for Phoenix, Arizona. They moved for my father's job the same weekend I transitioned to life as a college student.

I stood in an alley adjacent to the women's co-op that was my new home as my family left, and cried. It was what I thought I wanted. I was three months beyond my 18th birthday. The boy I loved, and had planned to attend college with, had bizarrely been denied admittance to the large state school. He instead, was going to an even better private university in Dallas -- three hours away. I didn't have a car or much spending money, and neither did he. I was completely alone. My family, now states away, and a steady boyfriend, essentially gone.

Dad, me, and Mom -- Wakonda Women's Co-op, University of Texas, August 1984

Me -- Co-op Courtyard, University of Texas, August 1984College wasn't awesome for me. Confused, mentorless, heartsick, and homesick, I flopped around for a few years unsure of what to do or who I was. I only lasted in Texas for a year before transferring to a smaller Arizona school. In hindsight, the giant state school was a terrible fit for a young, naive, immature, directionless girl. There's no one to blame and there's much more to my story; my experiences have made me who I am.

But, I want something different...better...for my kids. My husband feels the same and comes from a similar mentorless, freewheeling past. Some guidance, attention, and support within the education system would have been nice. However, as the saying goes...if things had been too much different, my husband and I wouldn't have met, fallen in love, and created our family. None of us can imagine not knowing our children.

August 2016 -- Malibu, California
So...my son. We attended a comprehensive new student/parent orientation program for a few days at his school before saying goodbye. Then we cried like babies. Parke's attending a school of his choosing (funded by a sizeable scholarship -- we're not fans of paying big money for undergraduate education), and we've done our best to ensure he's had, and has, the things we felt were lacking in our stories. Classic projection. But, projected with so much love, sincerity, and desire for our son to know he is supported. No matter what.

 Me, Parke, and Chris -- Pepperdine University, August 2016

Back to my 50th
June 5, 2016 was a beautiful day. My son had graduated three days prior -- an equally beautiful day -- and my family was happy and healthy. A 40-mile bike ride with my husband and father made me feel grateful for my health. A barbecue dinner in the backyard with my parents, husband, and sons left me feeling loved and celebrated. The simplest things are truly the grandest, and most memorable. For me.

Chris, me, and Dad -- Alpine, Utah, June 2016

I know my son's college commencement date -- May 2020. My advanced life degree commencement date? TBD. But, I intend to graduate with honors.

Sunday
Jun072015

Turning 49

On June 5, I turned 49. Knocking on 50's door sounds old when I view it as a chunk of time; almost half of a century. Fifty, like every decade that seemed too old and impossible for me to enter, beginning with 30, becomes more youthful, appropriate -- not so old -- the closer I get to it. Looking back at the milestone years, especially viewing photographs, I think...Man, I was young. Why was I so self-conscious of my appearance? I also recall what was happening in my life -- the things that troubled me, left me feeling dissatisfied, unfulfilled. What could have possibly given me stress? I should have enjoyed more and worried less. Moved through the struggles and challenges, breathing, and knowing everything was going to be all right. Not easy, but all right.

I spent my birthday mostly solo. My teenage sons had long-laid plans with friends to spend the day and evening at a local amusement park, celebrating the end of the school year. My husband had to work; although he offered to do anything I wanted. I wanted to get my nails done, which I did at 7:30 AM. I wanted to see a movie that I knew neither my husband nor 9-year-old son would likely enjoy. And, I wanted to shop for and choose a new mountain bike. The time alone truly appealed to me.

The movie was Iris. With freshly painted red toenails and Tiffany Blue fingernails I made my way to downtown Salt Lake City, battling traffic generated by the Utah Pride Festival and a public funeral service at Temple Square for an LDS apostle who died earlier in the week. The contrasting attire and general energy contained within cars and spilling onto sidewalks amused me. Midday, at the Broadway Centre Theatre with seven other viewers -- all older than me by at least 20 years -- I was touched and inspired by Iris Apfel and her husband Carl. It was the perfect documentary to watch on a day that began with me baking my birthday cake (after returning from my early morning nail appointment), thinking about aging, and contemplating new boobs. All things I'm perfectly comfortable with.

I'm far from a fashionista like Iris, although I enjoy creating and playing with aesthetics and style. But Iris Apfel is more than her fashion icon label; she's a woman who's lived life fully, is intelligent, curious, and well-matched with her adoring husband, Carl. She knows who she is and is unapologetic, yet not nasty or unkind. I just love her. And Carl. Maybe you will, too.

One week into being 49, I've handled the mundane -- scheduled windows and carpets to be cleaned, received bids on house repairs, grocery shopped and laundered for the family -- and fielded a TB scare (yes, as in tuberculosis -- I don't have it). I've also laughed with friends, run on trails, worked on my novel, read entertaining fiction, and looked out very clean windows. All with brightly colored nails, and a renewed tenacity for life, dreams, and fluidity...

...while a sheepdog who loves me patiently waits for my attention.

John and my nails. 

Monday
Dec312012

The Twofer

My parents travel from Arizona to Utah every year to spend Christmas with us. It’s become a tradition. My mother’s birthday is December 22nd, so they arrive in time for us to properly celebrate her before Santa visits. It’s a twofer at our house!

This year was no different, except Mom entered a new decade. A number she prefers that I not mention, because she says, “The only people who want to be “number-ty”, are people who are 80.”

We decided to go tubing on Mom’s special birthday. I called Soldier Hollow (a local winter sports place) and shared that my parents were…older than me…and asked if the hills were safe and mellow. “They’re totally mellow,” the young man said on the phone. “As long as a pusher doesn’t spin you.”

Got it. No spinning. I asked him if there was any way the day could be not fun. “Nope. Just layer your clothes. It won’t suck.”

This year, December 22nd was opening day for the tubing hill. Fresh snow had fallen days prior, the air was crisp, and the seven of us – aged 7 to “number-ty” – were ready for some old-fashioned fun! We climbed into our tubes and were towed up the hill.

I went first. Fast. And out of control. I blew past the orange cones where I was supposed to drag my feet to slow down, past the employee at the end of the run, and through a mesh safety fence. I stood up, and looked toward the top of the hill. Mom was getting ready to head down. I was…concerned.

“Hey. Can you tell my parents to go back?” I said to the employee. “Do you have a walkie-talkie? I think this is too much for them. They’re a little older. It’s my mom’s birthday. This seemed like a good idea. Is that pure ice?”

Then, down came Mom. The ride was quick, she drug her feet to stop, didn’t fall, and had a big grin on her face. I was happy she didn’t break a hip, because it’s always curtains when someone breaks a hip.

Then, down came Dad. Like a bullet. He shot through two safety fences, snapping a fence pole with a dramatic crack. He was fine and Mom cried with laughter, like watching Dad’s “agony of defeat” crash was the best gift ever.

We made a few more runs, had some hot beverages, then piled in the car and headed home. The seven of us took turns sharing details of successful and failed tubing techniques, recounting Dad’s rocket run many times.

Before the first run!

Hooking on to a towrope to climb the hill is a nice treat once in a while, cresting can be daunting, but the trip down is nothing to fear. The sweet spots seem to become more clear...over the hill.

I hope when I’m “number-ty” that I’m able to fly down a tubing hill on my stomach.

After a long, fun day -- Mom's number-ty birthday!