I make a lot of jokes about getting old, and most of the time they are just that – jokes. But lately, I find myself finding a little truth underneath the silliness and the sarcasm and the self deprecation. I can remember as a child my great grandmother (who we called Nana) saying, “It’s hell getting old” and I never really understood what she meant. As I got older, I decided that she must be talking about the aches and pains of getting older. I can understand that. While I’m not yet ancient, I’ve reached the age where although I can still do certain things in my mind (like back walkovers and roller skating backwards and reverse 1-1/2s off the 3 meter board), when it comes to reality I can just forget it. And I know what it feels like to be tired, and to have an aching back, and to wake up in the morning with injuries incurred while sleeping. Obviously, that is what she was talking about, right?
But now that I am a little older than when I decided that was the explanation, I realize that wasn’t it at all. Sure – the physical aches and pains can be a real bitch, but hell? No, that’s something else.
Though beautiful and wonderful, it’s hell to watch your kids grow up. To watch them lose every little bit of that baby you carried and held and nursed. It’s hell to not be able to instantly picture their baby faces in your mind. It’s hell to realize you aren’t perfect in their eyes anymore. It’s hell to think about them leaving home and going where you can’t protect them. It’s hell knowing that your time with them is short.
It’s hell watching your parent age. Not just get older, but get old. It’s beautiful to be old enough to see past your differences and remember when they were perfect in your eyes, but hell to watch them change into something else. It’s hell to see your friends lose their parents and to know that someday you will too. It’s wonderful if you still have your parents to lean on, but hell to realize that soon they will be leaning on you. It’s hell to wonder who you will lean on then. It’s hell knowing that your time with them is short.
It’s hell when you hear about an old friend or classmate with cancer or heart disease or diabetes and realize you’ve gone from feeling shocked because he or she is too young to be affected by something like that to feeling sad and upset and outraged because it’s so unfair, but no longer shocked. It’s hell to lose friends. It’s hell knowing that your time with them is short.
It’s hell when you find yourself occasionally giving your age and then finding yourself for even a brief instance thinking, “Wait, am I 42? Or is it 43?” It’s hell to feel like your life is flying by too fast and you can’t find the brakes. It’s hell to panic because you have so much left to do, but less time than think you need. It’s hell to suddenly feel mortal. It’s hell knowing that your time is always too short.
You were right, Nana. It is hell getting old.