I look in the mirror and see a much younger person. At least that’s what I’m thinking these days because there are signs all over that the me I see is not the me that others see.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was at Ben Gurion Airport awaiting a flight. The flight was delayed so I was searching for a seat at the gate when a man got up and said to me: Here Mama have a seat. Now, don’t get me wrong. While thoughts of mayhem spread through my senile brain, I reacted like a grownup and said todah and took the blasted seat! If this man had been in his 20’s I would have been less mortified. But he was easily in his 60’s. So how old did he think I was?
Finally aboard the aircraft I had another unsettling moment. I nicely asked a little boy’s mother if she could stop him from kicking the back of my seat, this, after many, many kicks! Since it was a 12 hour flight I was anxious to get a bit of rest. A knight in shining armor came to my rescue. The man sitting two rows in front of me, overhearing the conversation, said to the boy’s mother, She’s an old lady. Help her out. Oy vey.
And these things happen all the time. An ancient man said to me in shul something about people our age. He’s at least 90.
And when we travel, and look at maps, locals always come over to check if we need help. They didn’t do that a mere few decades ago. They do it because it’s nice to help out your elders.
The problem is, when did I become an elder? I don’t think or feel like an elder? Oh yes, I am a bit repetitious when I relate my favorite anecdotes. And I do have all the aches and pains that I’ve earned by living this long. But, the inside kernel of what is me is really the same person I was 20, 30 or even 60 years ago. And when I see someone old I don’t think I’m the same age as that person.
The other day I was sitting in the local JCC and an old man was sitting opposite me. His cane fell from his chair and I rushed to pick it up. He looked surprised as if he were thinking why is this old woman helping me?
I kid you not. These things keep on happening. So I look in the mirror and see myself. Not ancient at all I think. Obviously others think differently.
Sometimes I think it’s the gray hair that gives everyone this idea that I’m decrepit. But then I look at my friends with their dyed jet black or flaming red or platinum blonde locks and I fear they look just as old. The gray hair belongs on my head, not because I’m into au naturelle but because I think it fits me more.
I had a great-aunt Gussie, now long gone. When she was in her 80’s and I was about 18, she asked me to drive her to a pharmacy to buy lipstick. Of course I agreed, but It took her forever to find the right shade of lipstick. I suppose she quickly figured out my impatience and so she said, When you look at me you see an old lady. When I look at me I see a 16-year-old.
Now I suppose I should be grateful that I’ve reached this age. Believe me I am. Both of my grandmothers were long since dead when they should have been 77, my age now. My maternal grandfather died three weeks before my wedding at 77. My mother, who lived to 85, was president of the seniors group at our shul before turning 70. My father, on the other hand, was robust until his very late 90’s. But I don’t think anyone ever got up to give him a seat.
I think the real issue I’m complaining is that I’m surprised that I got so old so fast. I remember my yesterdays as if they really were yesterday. All the things that go into making up a life, my life, seem so recent. Everything happens so fast until it inevitably screeches to a halt.
I guess I should be grateful for the acts of kindness and respect that my age engenders. I’ll think about that.