The 'F' word

By Kris Ferrazza | Feb 09, 2018

With 50 on the horizon, I’m feeling a little out of sorts. No matter how much I’m reminded that “age is just a number,” “you’re only as old as you feel,” and “50 is the new 40,” it’s still a shock to the system.

Fifty has been looming large ever since I turned 45, to be honest. And at this point, frankly it’s the anticipation of “the F word” that’s killing me. Once the day has come and gone, I have no doubt I’ll be back to my, ahem, old self.

Growing older, in general, has been enjoyable for me. When I was a child, adults sometimes commented that I seemed older than my years, and I took great pride in that. I wanted to hang with the grownups, and to be taken seriously. I used to beg my mother to let me watch “Saturday Night Live” when I had no business asking. I eavesdropped on my parents’ adult conversations, and always wanted to be in on the big family decisions and inside jokes.

Once I became an adult, I loved things that were old-fashioned, vintage and antique. I admired old houses and barns, linens and embroidery, Victrolas and typewriters, dishes and silhouettes. So the fact that I myself am becoming dated, quaint, shabby chic and largely obsolete is not necessarily a bad thing. The notion of surrendering some of my responsibilities to young, capable, energetic people has a certain appeal. Phasing myself out of situations that have drained my life force is nothing short of transformative.

Age has its benefits. And when the finish line on the other side of 50 comes into view, there definitely is more clarity about how and where to spend time and energy.

Physical changes certainly are afoot. Friends and I bemoan our loss of eyesight, joking we have magnifiers from the drug store in every purse and drawer. At the school concert this week, a fellow mom commented that my daughter’s name appeared in the program for a solo and honors recognition. I confessed I hadn’t seen it, so she passed me her copy. Then I had to admit I still couldn’t read it because I didn’t have my glasses. Another mom generously handed me her magnifiers, and I put them right on. Apparently pride is the first to go. I scanned the program, then thanked both women, and returned the glasses. It takes a village. Moments later, I realized my own glasses were tucked into the collar of my shirt. Good times.

Truthfully, I think the loss of eyesight is merciful and a blessing in disguise. I saw all the proof I needed the last time I peered into a 20x magnification mirror.

No matter how old I get, my husband will always be six years older. So there is some consolation in that. Of course, he is aging like a fine wine, looking more distinguished by the minute with his salt-and-pepper scruff and silvery hair. Meanwhile, I am trying to turn back the hands of time every six weeks with a trip to the salon.

Like my husband, my own father was in his 40s and 50s when he had young children. Dad had white hair by the time I graduated from high school. It was odd at the time, because he looked twice as old as everyone else’s father. But as he aged, he got the last laugh. Friends now comment his looks haven’t changed in the last 40 years, and it’s true.

So how do we celebrate a landmark birthday?

I can recall my 10th birthday because parties with school friends were something special in my house. With five kids in the family, those “friend parties” only fell on certain years, mainly 10, 13 and 16, as I recall. We could invite our friends from school, and my mother went all out, making food, organizing games, buying prizes and decorating the house.

So I remember my 10th birthday included a scavenger hunt, and the grand prize was a Frisbee filled with LifeSavers candy. It was hidden in a bush in the backyard and caused quite a stir when it finally was discovered. Hey, it was 1978. Today’s iPhone crowd might not be quite so impressed.

By age 20, I was at the University of Maine and can’t remember exactly how we celebrated. It’s probably for the best. At 30, I was newly engaged and thrilled, so age didn’t bother me. Forty arrived while I was mother to a 2-year-old, which fooled people into thinking I was younger than I was. And 50, well, we’ll see. The only thing on the agenda so far is a colonoscopy, which doesn’t sound like a party at all.

I asked my daughter what we should do for my 50th birthday.

“Go to Italy,” she said without hesitation. I laughed.

“Don’t you love it there?” she asked.

“Well, yes, but…” I said.

“Then let’s go,” she said.

Out of the mouths of babes.

The Internet credits Victor Hugo with saying, “Forty is the old age of youth; Fifty the youth of old age.” I like that. Fifty is old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway.

I may be old, but I still feel like my mom and dad’s 600-month-old baby.

Who cares if I accidentally put the lettuce in the pantry cupboard the other night? Or tried to fit the cover to the sugar bowl on my coffee cup this morning? So what if I took a shower, then saw my unkempt hair two hours later and commented that I badly needed to shower? And doesn’t everyone hold the door open calling, “Here kitty, kitty…” only to find the kitty is a cast-iron doorstop?

No? Just me? OK, I’ll own it.

Like beauty, age is in the eye of the beholder.

My daughter may have summed it up best: “Childhood is over when you’re 12, because that’s when getting free cookies at Hannaford ends.”

And the beat goes on.

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