Friday, May 16, 2014

From where I stand

From where I stand, my forties are nearly past. Like in about eight weeks. 

I admit. I was sort of blase about turning 50. I've never really gotten my knickers in a knot about "big" birthdays. I tend to welcome birthdays because I do recognize that "it is a privilege denied to many." We have a list of those friends and family who left us too soon, don't we? However, the past few months have been a bit of a wake up call.

This spring, I've spent some considerable time with family. We traveled to visit our 80 and 90-something family members in Florida. As our trip got underway, my mother had emergency bypass surgery. Less than a month later, we celebrated the life of my stepmother and did our best to hold it together. We had several conversations about what my family members think about living in their 70's, 80's, and 90's, and how they want to live their lives from here on. We also talked about what many families avoid like root canals, a tax audit, and Miley Cyrus.

We had conversations about last days and how they hoped it would go at the end. Wishes and thoughts and memories from moments throughout their lives, long before I ever knew them. 

And now my dad is making plans to move out of the house he and my stepmother lived in for twentysome years and downsizing into something much smaller. More transition.

From where I stand, I realize that in a little more than 20 years, I'll be my parents' age. And that's when my knickers got in a knot. What do I need to do in the next 20 years to be ready?

In the midst of my slight panic came crazy things in the mail, like the AARP stuff. The universe and one's internet browser does conspire to provide some interesting ads in the sidebar. Like this, from our old pal from "Dinner and a Movie," Annabelle Gurwitch.

Yes. I'm heading to my local bookstore to order this. 

And I'm going to open this up and read it. I was honored to receive a copy as a gift and true to life, it's been a little too close to home to actually read it. Past that now! In her book, "How We Die Now," Karla Erickson says that we can expect to live 30 years longer than our recent ancestors. We are living longer lives than our grandparents and great-grandparents. Does anyone else remember how "old" their grandparents looked when they were in their 60s? Just looking back at photos of my grandparents compared to my dad and his siblings at the same age, there is little comparison. 

For those of us who graduated from high school in 1982, this means that living until we are 100 is going to be a little more common than it is now. 

Just take a moment and consider that. Maybe fifty MORE years? Really? When you think back on the past years of your life and then are told that you could live just as many again, that's a little staggering. The good news is that we can anticipate this and envision what it will look like. The other side of the coin is that life in our 80s will be a lot different than life in our 40s. Living longer often means needing more care and assistance in our later years.

Our trailblazers, the elder Baby Boomers, are already redefining retirement and senior living. And they are doing the same for elder caregiving and for what they want for their parents and themselves. 

Believe me, I'm not rushing this. But I am not standing here alone, am I? I'm raising teenagers and looking at college brochures at the same time I'm helping my dad downsize into a condo and facing the fact that I probably have 20 years left in a full time working world. 

I have some dreaming to do. Plans to put in place. Life to live. It is a little terrifying and a whole lot of exciting at the same time.

Almost thirty years ago, this little movie was in the theater and is one of those that most adults my age remember very fondly. Ferris is now 52. Look at that fresh face of our younger days. These words are still important, maybe more so now that we're halfway, right?

"Ferris Buller's Day Off" 1986

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