Turning 70

I feel my bravado weakening.

Last night, lying in bed with my husband, I told him that unless I killed myself in the next 45 minutes I was going to become a 70-year woman at midnight. And then I went to sleep.

This morning he asked me if all the reflection about my birthday was over. And it occurred to me that all my writing and posting about turning 70 had started to become narcissistic. After all, people get older all the time. People turn 70 all the time. They don’t feel compelled to pull their friends and relatives through endless pep talks and gratitude prayers which is sort of what I’ve done. But, of course, I realize I was the real audience.

Turning 70 seems preposterous to me. It is such a forbidding, large number, an unbelievable number applied to me although I feel I have lived plenty long. I’m not one of those who thinks her life has sped by. Much of it plodded by and, at times, stood still, the times of misery in particular seemed endless and timeless. Big events, catastrophic things, like assassinations and wars, hang on me like a vintage scarf. Watching a documentary about John Kennedy’s funeral the other night made me want to cover my eyes, my feelings about it so close to the surface even after fifty-five years. And so I go places with all these old things hanging on me, the bad events but also the music and the things I did when I was young and I look like an old woman but I am really a thousand scarves.

The whole thing makes me want to cry but it doesn’t make me sad.

I watched the news reports of Barbara Bush’s death. Film clips of her as a young woman, a mom, a First Lady. The most recent clips are of her in a walker; she seems smaller, reduced from her robust self, and the commentator notes that she was on oxygen in her last years. My favorite picture of her shows the deep wrinkles in her tanned face, she is smiling like she just came in from a walk on the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. She reminds me of a favorite aunt, the one always dressed to the nines who smoked Chesterfields and drank what I always considered to be ‘man-drinks.’ You wouldn’t catch my aunt drinking a glass of wine, she’d kick off her heels, lean against the kitchen counter, and have a Scotch on the rocks. I bet Barbara Bush was like my aunt. I don’t think either of them was afraid of what would come next.

When my daughter and I did a long distance charity walk in a very hilly city, I quickly learned to keep my eyes focused on the steps right in front of me. Nothing was gained by looking up and seeing the hill we faced; it was better not to know how big it was or how long it would take. Just appreciate the steps of the people in front of you, I’d tell myself. Watch your own strong legs take the next step and then the next. Don’t let the dread of the hill make you weak. That makes a lot of sense to me.

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” — Joan Didion









15 Comments on “Turning 70

  1. I keep thinking about this. All the eternal improvement/how to do it stuff for women “in their 40s, 50s and even 60s…” Oh damn. And then what? Do the 70s, 80s and 90s become a new market opportunity? Sheesh. Last night I spent with a bunch of older volunteers and younger employees, and when I crossed the age line to talk to the younger women, in a field about which I know quite a lot (although they don’t know I do), it was sort of charming to hear their enthusiasm about what they were discovering. All new! Well, close to 70 I know better than to say oh yes, we knew that/did that before and just enjoy their pleasure in their smartness and investment. They have no interest in anything I might add. I keep wondering if I was like that too in my 30s. Probably.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Belated Happy “70th”, Jan. Believe me when I say I hear ya! I just turned 76 a few days ago and, mentally, it didn’t register. Must be someone else. 76 is for an old person. Not me. There must be someone else walking around in my body. When we’re younger, we never think about becoming an “old person”. If we do, it’s like in the vintage Hollywood movies where they age the stars with nice wigs and make up but they still look young.
    I have had that familiar epiphany that most of life is behind me now. So, I better edit my plans for the future.
    Here’s to good health and sanity, Jan. Oh, some virtual hugs from a fellow 70’s person.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I turned 70 sixteen months ago and the universe is continuing the same as ever. but I do start wondering when I read what younger women have to say about turning 40, or 50. I remember I thought it was the end of the world back then. Apparently not.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Congrats on your 70th birthday and for expressing yourself so exquisitely in words. I am only a few years behind and know that I am not used to being “old” yet; I don’t think that I ever will! My grandmother, who lost her husband at only 65, often told me, “As long as you have your health, you have everything.” So, the future spreads before us, and we can make of it what we will. I plan to write even more, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you did, too. Have a healthy, productive, and HAPPY year, Jan!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy birthday. You have so many beautiful scarves. I understand that Mrs. Bush spent her last days calling friends and drinking bourbon. I think that’s the way to do it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on the five and ten year birthdays. Maybe it’s because we have five fingers per hand and thus 10 on both. For reasons best known to other entities, we can’t count on our toes.

    HOWEVER. I actually think 71 hurts more than 71 just as 76 hurts more than 75. Because now you are closer to the NEXT five year hit than you were before. And 76 sounds awfully tight up on 80. Just saying.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I am six years away from 70..and you are correct. it is a forbidding number…but that’s all it is. a number. your age is just one thing about you, and frankly, it is one of the smallest. celebrate your life.

    Liked by 1 person

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