Yesterday, I went to the park with my husband to check out a new interest group. After years of tabletop gaming, amused by urban legends of people donning costumes and actively playing it out in city parks and university steam tunnels, we learned there was a live action gaming group in our area. Sounded like fun, so we showed up to investigate.
They were kids. To be fair, some of them were technically adults, in their twenties. The oldest was thirty. Most of them were in high school. My point is all of them, even the oldest, were young enough to be our kids. It was . . . jarring.
I tend to forget how old I am. My plan is to live to be a hundred. At a mere fifty-three years, barely past the halfway mark, I like to consider myself middle-aged. All of my siblings and both of my parents are still alive. I hang around with clowns, many of them older than me, using humor as a tonic against aging. I’m in a weight loss club whose membership contains a good range of ages, including lots of old people hoping to live to be even older.
My subconscious strategy against feeling ancient appears to be surrounding myself with older people. I always feel better when they say “Oh, honey, you aren’t that old yet.” They’re right, of course. With age comes wisdom and the sort of kindly patience to resist smacking someone upside the head, an urge I frequently experience toward my forty-something friends when they complain about feeling old.
Yesterday’s adventure reminded me that the longer I remain in the world, the more often I’m going to end up being oldest person in the room. It’s already happened in my husband’s family. All the kids moved to the adult table and most of the adults have passed away. At holiday gatherings with the in-laws, my husband and I are the oldest ones in the room.
The local NaNoWriMo group is also made up of people younger than me. They chat about their small children, their college courses, their high school adventures. I listen and nod and occasionally say something about my garden. Fortunately for them, I don’t have grandchildren to talk about, though all my siblings do. If I wanted to, I could bore them to death with stories of my nieces and nephews and with pictures of their kids, but then they’d know how old I am.
It’s possible they don’t know. I’m a bit pudgy, which hides a few wrinkles, and my active lifestyle keeps me in fairly good shape. I like to think myself well-preserved and much younger-looking than my actual years. We all have our comforting delusions. We need them.
Midlife can be terribly hard sometimes. Your babies grow up and move away, leaving a big empty space. Your body aches with the pains of wear and tear. You toughen up, remind yourself it’s better than the alternative, and learn to ignore it and get on with your day.
Death, injury, misfortune, and disease rain randomly upon friends and relatives. In my circle of friends and family are people younger than me battling cancer, facing homelessness, dealing with chronic illnesses or the after-affects of crippling injuries. Every day I think of them and hope the ones still alive will be OK. Then I thank my lucky stars I’ve not received a similar direct hit. Yet.
The positive side of all this is that it is human experience that can be channeled into my art. Being a bit on the old side gives one certain advantages as a writer. This is why, when we finally get to meet our literary heroes at workshops and conventions, they are often quite advanced in years. It takes time to become successful and it takes life-experience to develop the level of empathy and skill needed to really tell a masterful story.
Someday perhaps my own stories will impress a new generation of readers who will want to meet me. By then, it’s likely they too will be a bit startled at what a fossil I am. Like my heroes before me, I’ll be the oldest person in the room. So maybe, it’s not such a bad thing. Indeed, in this context, it sounds like something to aspire to.
So here’s to living long enough to be the most elderly, the best preserved fossil, the last one standing. To being open to the possibility the younger generation may have some useful insights to teach us. To doing what we enjoy even if some people may think it kids stuff. To taking care of ourselves and trying to live long enough to see the future.
Here’s to being the oldest person in the room. It sure beats the alternative.
- Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. I’m three days behind. Oops!
- Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I’m finally making some progress in this area. I put in about three hours of writing since Wednesday. That’s a start.
- Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I’m spending way more time blogging than promoting. Blah Blah Blog…
- Finish reading a book and write a review. I forgot to mention this on my last update. That might be why it is still not done. Hopefully putting it here will inspire the necessary guilt to spur me to action.