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Sunday, February 24, 2013

When You Reach "That" Age

Last month I attended my nephew's bar mitzvah. I wrote a blog about that experience. Part of that was about old Jewish drivers.

My "people".
What I didn't mention in that blog was a conversation my cousin Stuart and I had. He mentioned how noticeable it was that my mother wasn't there. To my knowledge, this was the first big family function we have had since she passed away in November of 2010. 
I told him that while I miss my mother a bit and I think those things from time to time as well, life is for the living. You move on. It was her time to go, she had her time. It is not something I think about often. I do notice though, that as I get closer to 50 (less than two years now) many of the adults from my childhood are not there anymore. Even at this Bar Mitzvah I could see a few who likely wont make it to my 50th birthday.
On Saturday, my Aunt Linda died after a very long illness. My Aunt lived less than 5 minutes from me for as long as I have been in Toronto (more than 35 years). I can say with certainty that I have not seen her in more than 20 years. I saw her husband,  my Uncle Sheldon, only once or twice 15 years ago when he handled the legal aspects of me buying my house. He is a real estate lawyer. Other than that, I haven't seen him either since. Safe to say, we were not close. 
But I did know them well when I was much younger. I used to play and do stuff with their daughters Shawna and Marla, as we were all about the same age. There were many family functions back then and Sheldon and Linda were at all of them. As were my parents and my grandparents. Now, with the exception of Sheldon, all of them have passed on.
Sheldon and Linda were married close to 60 years. That is 60 years  with one person. By now, that is most of his life. In many ways,  when you get to that stage it is very hard to imagine just being "you" and not being "us". 
 Back in those days, both sets of my grandparents and my parents were still alive. None of them are anymore. My grandfather died very young of a sudden heart attack. But otherwise, all of the rest lived well into the 1990's, and my parents both passed in a two month period from November 2010 to January 2011. When that happens, you start to think about age in ways that really never crossed your mind to that point. Getting older was not the same as being old.
I am getting to the point where I am reaching "that" age. People in your family and friends die with a much greater frequency. It is part of life you expect. A big part of who were around you in your formative years just are not there anymore. In 10 years or so, I can see where even the kids from my generation will have to deal with more frequency of their own generation starting to die. It is that age you reach.
I notice the smaller things these days. Signs that youth is fading away. My knees are generally sore more often. My ankles swollen. My back aches take months, not weeks to get better. Even my once full head of hair is getting thinner. Not to the extent that some of my cousins are going bald or very grey, but I have my share of grey and loss of hair. Nobody is immune. Time spares very few.
So far, to this point my mind is as sharp as ever. It has not lost any level of ability. I can't imagine a time when it will. But everyone tells me it will happen. When I reach "that" age.  
My father had always been "the man". But in his last few years he had all sorts of problems. Heart problems and especially kidney issues. He seemed to beat all of that. But he just wasn't as sharp as he once was. He was 75 when he died, and 5 days before he had a massive stroke that took him 5 days later I noticed something that highlighted the effects of old age to me. It is something I will never forget.
We had just gone out to dinner and he was driving me back home. I had not been in the car with my father in a while. I usually drove myself, but not this time. As we made our way back to my house I was kind of shocked to see him not know the way. The house I live and own these days is the same house that my parents bought 35 years ago. My father certainly knew the way and traveled that route thousands of times. But on this day, he was bewildered and didn't know the way. I had to tell him where to turn. I put it down to just plain old age, but I was surprised. You never think that the simple things like knowing the route you have traveled thousands of times will leave your mind. But it happens..when you reach "that" age.
The increase in frequency for which my relatives and friends pass on only reminds me that I am reaching "that" age. 
Life is for the living. I said that. I mean that. Live your life to the fullest until you cannot. It will be taken away from you, likely in gradual signs. Until it is, use what you have to the fullest.  

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