It has recently (finally!) occurred to me that at 57 I might be a bit on the older side when it comes to making major life changes. Most of my friends are starting to talk about retirement, whereas I'm thinking that if I can just make it past that exegesis exam, then I might be ordained to something somewhere sometime.
My paternal grandmother always longed to travel the world, but was temporarily stymied by my grandfather's refusal to board either a plane or a boat. She was a resourceful woman, however, and when I was nine and in fourth grade, she took me to Williamsburg VA for a week, inaugurating 25 years of adventure around the globe with grandchildren in tow.
The next summer, when I was ten, we headed for Yellowstone and the Tetons. I very much wanted to take one of the park ranger-led trail rides, and she didn't want to send me off alone, so she bought a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt and clambered into a horse for the first time in her life.
You might have thought, given the fuss that folks made of her adventure, that she was at least 90 years old. Last week I realized that she was the age I am now!
In my efforts to sort through the massive files of papers in this house, I've just found a box of letters I removed from my grandmother's attic a few years ago. If I have understood my family history correctly, in the space of about two years around 1960 my grandparents each lost a parent and my mother and brother were killed. This particular box of letters documents that time in the form of condolence letters; those from the nearby Ursuline sisters and from my grandmother's college friends are particularly beautiful.
In one of the letters, one of her friends references a conversation she and my grandmother had had a year earlier. My grandmother had apparently said, "Do you realize that we only have about 10 productive years of life left?"
She would have been about 53 when she said that!
My grandmother lived to be 100. I don't think she would have chosen the last decade of her life, during which she became almost entirely deaf and blind, but she never lost the use of her considerable intelligence, and she was deeply engaged in our lives into her 90s.
I suppose that for someone born shortly after 1900, when the average American life expectancy was fifty, the mid-60s did seem OLD. I feel quite creaky sometimes ~ but not very old.