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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Aging with gratitude

My body is telling me it’s aging: My left knee is creaky. My right shoulder clicks. My toes cross over each other. I am wearing hearing aids. I got two crowns (on my teeth) this week.

Out in the world: Waiters call me “ma’am.” Middle-aged men (trying to be kind) offer me a hand as I scramble up rocks on a hike. I buy more sympathy cards than baby gifts. In the last few weeks, I’ve had mortality discussions with several aging friends as well as sharing “organ recitals” about which body parts are failing first.

Even the Internet won’t let me forget. I went to the Expedia website to rent a car for a trip to Florida and read “Important information: Drivers under 25 or over 70 years of age may need to pay an extra fee.” We decided to adopt a puppy to keep Togo company in the sunset of his life. The online application states, “If you are over 70 years old, we require a co-signer that will agree to care for the dog in the event the adopter can no longer do so.” I guess that’s a good thing. You don’t want a dog ending up homeless because she outlived her master. But I felt like I was being hit upside the head with a two-by-four.

I Googled the statistics, and what I learned was sobering. The average lifespan of a Colorado woman is 78.1 years. At 72, I’ve already beat the average in Mississippi (71.8).  So I decided I needed an attitude adjustment, and thanks to Fran Lipowitz’s Mussar lesson, I began thinking of the upside of aging:

  1. As Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I don’t have to worry about impressing a boss, dying my hair to make me look employable or making a good impression on my LinkedIn profile. I can do what I want when I want.

  2. Friends and family. I have a 55-year relationship with a man I love and friends with whom I’ve shared experiences for over a half century.

  3. Yes, I have to face that most of my life is behind me, and I can look back with satisfaction. I know some people say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” That’s not true for me – there are things I wish I had said and things I wish I hadn’t; things I wish I’d done and things I wished I hadn’t. AND overall it’s been a very fine life.

Finally, I am thankful for overall good health, the ability to travel, to learn, to serve my community as a volunteer and to spoil my grandchildren.

I’m off on a hike! Shalom.

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