It’s official, and now that the rollercoaster that was this week is over, I can share this bit of news with all of you. In the midst of the madness, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Yes, I am now a half-century old.
I think I’m supposed to feel different because friends and colleagues keep asking me, “How do you feel?” Is 50 supposed to feel different than 49? Am I supposed to be sad? Contemplative? Excited?
What I can say, having survived a head injury, the result of a car accident, and then 13 coronary stents, is, “I’m very happy to be here.” Is that enough? Should there be more? According to celebrities who reach an insert-age-here milestone and then write a book and go on talk shows to shout how wonderful it is to be said age, I should be glowing — but the only thing that appears to be glowing is the fifty shades of gray in my hair.
The chronological number truly means nothing to me. It’s the feeling number that counts — and there are days when I feel 30 and days when I feel 80 and days when I feel just right.
Nevertheless, 50, I’m told by current members of the club, has its perks. For starters, I now have an admirer — a stalker, really, who goes by the name AARP. Persistent in its efforts, my suitor sends me letters and emails daily in an attempt to get my attention. Flowers, AARP. Flowers would be a much more romantic touch.
I’ve also been informed that now that I’ve achieved 50, my inner censorship button is shut off and I’m free to roam about the cabin and say anything and everything. I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of freedom, but I’m willing to give it a try.
With that in mind, I have some questions about the 50’s experience. If you’re in the club, feel free to answer. If you’re still working your way up to the required membership age, you may have your own questions and my panel of commenting experts may be able to provide some guidance.
1. Does gray hair have a mind of its own?
For most of my life, I’ve combed my hair in the same direction. At this stage, each strand, like well-trained soldiers, knows what I expect of them and they easily fall into place.
But not the grays. They’re a bit more rebellious, different textured, and determined to remain untamed. Even the whiskers in my beard are disobedient. I think the gray whiskers press themselves against the surface of my skin, waiting for the blades to pass over them. Once the danger has moved on, they spring up to full attention, no different than the one blade of grass that always seems to be just out of reach of the mower.
2. While we’re on the subject of gray hair, who is that middle-aged man and what has he done with the image of me that I think I am?
This is perhaps the one thing I can never — will never — get used to: my reflection. As I go about my day, I don’t consider how I look. I forget that that there is more gray than brown in my hair, forget that I now wear glasses, forget that my waistline is a little fuller. In my mind, I’m younger than my age.
And then I pass a store window and see me — and each time, I’m stunned, as if I’m seeing a familiar face after several decades. The conversation in my head goes something like this: “I can place the face, but, boy-oh-boy, he’s aged — and somehow, I haven’t changed a bit.”
I know, a “duh” moment.
3. Is there an anatomy book for people over 50?
If not, there certainly should be. That thought occurred to me after a day of spring cleanup. That night, once showered and relaxed, I felt a pain somewhere deep between my hip and my waist, and I could only feel it if I walked a certain way. I wish I could be more specific, but I never considered that part of my body, much less have an actual name for it.
This might actually be a good time to bring up my idea for a pre-garden season training camp — kind of like the kind for baseball players, only with more deep knee bends and hoisting.
So, who am I at 50?
I’m certainly more gray, more achy and more thankful — but I’m far from dead. In fact, I like to think that I’m a bit like the Hydrangea above, which I spotted while cleaning up. Older and woodier, but when touch I the ground, roots take hold and new green emerges.