“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
I read recently that there are now three categories of age – youth: birth to 19; middle age: 20 to 70; old age: 71-90+ – based on how long people are living these days and the general health and fitness of those who used to be considered old-aged, 60 +. Imagine my surprise, since I’ll have my 70th birthday in a few weeks, that for at least another year I’ll still be considered middle-aged (although, I’ve always reckoned age from conception – not birth, where you’re already 9 months old – which means I’ll be 71 in about 4 months).
Even if mentally I feel in my 40s and physically in, maybe, my late 50s, and turning 71 is now officially “old”, I’m not sure I’m ready, psychologically and emotionally and physically, to accept that I am (or soon will be) “old”.
Not that I have any objection to being labeled as such. I was happy to finally get my AARP card and all the “senior” discounts that come with it, or to finally get the deference younger people should (but generally don’t) pay their elders (holding open doors, allowing to go ahead in lines, saying “Sir” or “Ma’am”), unless they see white hair (yeah, I do).
But what I object to most is being thought as such whenever I want to do something I’ve always done, stuff I know I can still do (albeit maybe a little slower). As if years of age automatically defines abilities (I’ve known teenagers far more knowledgeable and wiser than many adults and I’ve known many “seniors” who can physically run circles around most teenagers).
Take yard care. I don’t have a lot of it (about 1/3 acre) to mow, but I do have plants (besides general weeding) that I have to deal with 2-3 times a year (cutting and shaping). Like the 4′(h)x3′(w)x100’+(l) privet hedge that runs down the sides and across, outlining, my front yard. Not to mention other sundry bushes in the backyard.
There may soon be some things that I no longer will be able to do but, if I still can (again, albeit a little slower), why shouldn’t I? If I don’t, they’ll all go to hell and I’ll just get fat sitting and watching it happen.
I admit, I have some physical issues that have to be managed and some that are aggravated – even exquisitely, intensely painful – by prolonged physical exertion, but all are tolerable, when better relieved through chemistry, and I believe are not insurmountable barriers to doing whatever I want. Or, at times, need to.
However, there are some who think otherwise, they think either I can’t or shouldn’t any longer do certain physical things. God bless them. Seriously. Such demonstrates their love and concern for me and my well-being, and I totally appreciate it. Honestly.
“Why not hire someone to do it? You can afford it. Or ask for help. Don’t be stubborn!”
Well, a) yes, I can afford it, but I have an aversion to spending money on anything I consider unnecessary, b) I wasn’t raised that way, c) I am what I am (and how could I live with myself any other way?)
My grandparents, parents and their siblings, all endured the Depression and WWII. Life was a bitch. Money was scarce, wages were low, you didn’t spend money unless it was absolutely necessary. To keep a household running everyone from the youngest children who all had chores around the home to the older ones who had part-time jobs after school, it was expected each and every one would do his or her part without complaint. This philosophy trickled down to me and my siblings, each of us had a defined chore we were required to do weekly, and given an allowance we were expected to use wisely (well, I don’t know if buying comic books early on counted, but nothing was said).
Mine, for example, was mowing the lawn from age 9 until I left home for college at 18. I remember once (around 10 or 11) I was tiring mid-mow, saw my dad doing nothing, and asked him to if he would finish. He said, “If you need a break, take one.” Then he added, “If you can do a job on your own, never ask for help. If you can’t do it by yourself, always ask for help.” I had heard it before, it was sort of his credo. “Do you need help?” I knew I didn’t, I could do it by myself, I was a big boy. I never asked him again.
I use to ask my mother, who still at 80 would climb a ladder to clean out the gutters on our two-story home, why she didn’t pay someone to do it (I lived 3,000 miles away or I would have done it). Her response, “Why, when I can?”
Now you understand why I have an aversion to asking for help. I come by it honestly.
But let me stipulate, I have no aversion to accepting help. If it is offered and I think the offerer is capable. Help is always welcomed, it halves the work, the time and the energy. But I’ll only ask (or accept) if I think I can’t or shouldn’t try to do it on my own.
That’s just me.
Stubborn as I may be.
Besides, I’m not that old. Yet