This is a year of milestones in my life, a year of decades. I'm in my seventh decade now and my daughter-in-law just entered her third. For my granddaughter, turning five years old, it's her first half-decade. Milestones for us all, markers of miles, telling us how far we’ve come but not what lies ahead - which is what really tweaks my curiosity, wanting to know what lies around the next corner.
Irish poet Dylan Thomas, who died young from alcoholism, raged Do not go gentle into that good night , while British poet Robert Browning crooned Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. But I like the backwoods Vermont wisdom of former governor Deane Davis best when he advised friends to go out and buy green bananas to have something to look forward to.
I like the concept of waiting for life to ripen.
I have a friend who’s always lamenting her physical limitations, focusing on what she can no longer do. I have to be careful or I find myself slipping into that same can't do frame of mind. The truth of course, is that my joints don't move as well as they used to and my bones seem to ache at times. My hearing isn't sharp and my energy sags in late afternoon.
That's what I don't have.
What I do have is a full life with friends and family. I have, as TS Elliot put it, "Books and cats... Life is good." I’ll admit to a few regrets, but mostly I have rich memories. And I have the stories of a life time. I have grass, still lush and green in my yard, birds that sing me awake each morning in season and a canopy of stars overhead at night. I have wonder...
At 70, I also have perspective. What I value is in clearer focus now. What matters are the values - the way we treat each other and ourselves. Not just with the big things, like kindness and compassion and understanding... but with the little things, like saying thank you. Like offering a smile...
In this the year of decades, I'm aging backwards, following the advice of Mark Twain that "Whatever [your] age, [you] can reduce it several years by putting a bright-colored flower in [your] button-hole."
I think that's a good formula for successful aging: a bright-colored flower, a smile and a big bunch of green bananas.