By Judy Dykstra Brown
What once passed for vigor, I fear has turned into a case of fine acting. If I walk with energy, it is a forced energy expressed in spurts in situations where once I ran. I hope this can be attributed to the dignity of my age; but when I see others my age outpacing me, the jig is up and I am revealed for what I am—someone who, in spite of what I have always believed would happen, is wearing out and falling into that part of the life cycle that includes wrinkling up and slowing down. Ugh. I hate to admit it, but perhaps if I do it will be a type of therapy and in confronting it, it will go away—or at least it will lessen in its effect.
The truth is that I fear acting old more than I fear looking old. I hate it that I struggle to get up from a kneeling position and that I can in no way do it gracefully. I put both hands against the floor in front of me, raise my butt in the air and walk up to my hands—only way it seems possible without a lot of grunting and straining. In animal behavior, I would probably appear sexy as I do so, but I do not delude myself that any human being would find it so.
An additional truth to face now that I am 69 is that I am turning into my mother. Having to do more than one thing at once befuddles me and sometimes even one thing at a time is a bit confusing. Numbers don’t behave as they once did. I add and subtract and multiply and divide just fine. I grew up in a time before computers and handheld devices, so I’m used to doing functions mentally that youth finds better relegated to machines. The problem is in the interrelation of functions––just how to convert dimensions expressed in meters and tenths of meters to inches, to enable me to equate it to the past when all dimensions were expressed as such. Why describe in tenths of feet which are traditionally divided into twelve parts, not ten? Why not just convert to a decimal system entirely, which I could then translate easily to inches and then to feet and inches?
The world is no longer my oyster. Devices get smaller and smaller as my eyes get worse and worse. I can’t wait for all of today’s young programmers and systems designers to get to be 60 and to try to make use of the apps they’ve designed primarily for phones so tiny that you can barely find the phone, let alone make out pages as small as playing cards. And don’t even get me started on the designers of medicine labels! If it isn’t bad enough that they are in size 2 font, they then make them white on yellow or gray on blue so it is impossible to read them no matter what size they are. What are they thinking? The clincher was my optometrist’s card that was primarily empty space with the writing squeezed into one corner, so small that I doubt it could be read by anyone–glasses or no glasses, and remember, people come to optometrists primarily because they can’t see in the first place! In addition, it was one of those cards impossible to look at because the two colors used not only made it difficult to read, but tended to affect one’s astigmatism, or at the very least one’s sense of good taste.
I must admit that I have never been an athletic person. Zumba, yoga and pool aerobics have been my most successful and enduring modes of exercise. But what I have done, I have always done with great vigor. I work hard, in the past did all my own housework and gardening and have been a bit of a workaholic. But very recently, I find myself wearing out faster, sneaking off to a hidden corner to huff and puff a bit or lie down for a ten-minute rest. I find myself getting a bit testier and less patient when things go wrong, but blessedly usually express my frustration (aloud) primarily to myself.
It occurred to me earlier this year, however, that passing neighbors can probably hear me when I shout “Idiot” to myself—or worse. Or, when I yell at the dogs to stop barking or stop jumping up. “Judy, you’re worse than the dogs!” a friend sputtered, shaking his head one day as I roared “Frida, Diego, Morrie–stop!!!” as they executed a deafening chorus of deep barks when I arrived home and opened the garage door. So I guess that is one place where my energy remains unabated. When it comes to expressing myself, I have great vocal cords. You could even say I’m still capable of a vigorous rejoinder!!!