Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Getting old is not for sissies
Today is my husband’s birthday. I would not be so brash as to say exactly how old he is, but I will say I have had a certain Beatles song running through my head for weeks. You know the one. “Will still need me? Will you still feed me, when I’m …”?
I have known this man for nearly a quarter century, and it has been a remarkable, long and winding road (to continue quoting from the Fab Four). I find one of the most interesting parts of our journey to be the process of aging.
I don’t think either of us could have imagined the changes that would take place in our lives as the children grew up and our days moved away from back to school nights and summer vacations and into the hope of an empty nest with retirement coming into view.
I know neither of us were prepared for the physical changes our bodies would undergo as we moved out of middle age and into whatever this might be. We are still active and neither of us really think of ourselves as old, but we tend to disagree about what old means.
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We recently saw news of the death of a famous actor and, as is often the case, our conversation went something like this:
Me: Tim Conway died.
Him: How old was he?
Him: He was a young man.
Me: No, honey, he was old.
Him: 85 is not that old.
Me: Yes. It is.
Him: No. It’s not.
Me: Yes. It is. Luke Perry was relatively young (at 52). Tim Conway was old.
Him: Not in this day and age. People live to be 100.
Me: That may be true, but they are old.
So, maybe we are not so “old,” but we are most definitely no longer young. It’s one of those things that just sort of creeped up when we weren’t paying attention. We often have discussions on the topic. We discuss failing eye-sight, stiff joints, backaches, hair that has turned gray or completely abandoned its post, necks that have become slack and spots on our skin that we can no longer pretend are merely freckles.
And we are most definitely slowing down. I must admit, that particular change is not all bad.
Slowing down allows us to appreciate each day a bit more. We have a better sense of what is important and of course, we now have all that wisdom that has come with living a long-ish life.
However, my husband finds aging an especially egregious process and is fighting the good fight to thwart it at every turn. But, in spite of the effort, there are some obvious signs that time is marching on. I see the passion in him that was once a blazing bonfire, now more akin to a controlled burn. His need to conquer the world has been replaced with a bit of complacency. He does not find many issues worth fighting over. I am working on doing the same.
Ultimately, I think what we fear most of all — beyond a body that does not respond as it once did or a mind that is not as sharp as it once was — is the fear of being irrelevant. We do not want to be ineffective or without purpose. A friend recently said, “Of all of the “ism’s,” ageism is the worst.” I am not sure it is the worst (thinking racism may claim the top spot), but it certainly ranks high on the list. The tendency to cast aside, rather than revere our elders is one of our biggest societal failures.
I understand that now that I am “of a certain age.”
I give my spouse a hard time but in truth, I admire him. I admire the fight. He has been coaching football for as long as I have known him. He continues to make an impact on the lives the of those kids, with purpose and relevance.
He is in great shape and he works hard at it. He watches what he eats and balances any transgressions in his diet with an extra mile on the trail or with a few extra holes on the golf course. He may well live to be 100.
He explained that he is simply unwilling to give in to the process. Each time he is forced to accept that he simply cannot do something due to his age, he balks. He is no longer running marathons in under four hours. He moves slower in the morning. His back and his knees scream in protest at the constant workouts. He presses on. He simply refuses to give in.
I am certain I am not that kind of girl. I am more inclined to let the chips fall where they may, and I can only hope I will be able to keep up with him. I am fortunate to be several years younger, but I am note sure that is going to work to my advantage, which makes me think of yet another Beatles song: Let It Be!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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