At 70 years of age, on the cusp of the Baby Boom generation, I’m reminded daily, as my pal Keith says, there’s more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than the top. Can’t pass a day on Facebook without coming across a self-deprecating cartoon, featuring a generic old coot saying something like, “Yippee! I’m retired! I can do anything I want, anytime I want. Now what was it I wanted to do?” And indeed, when socializing with my age mates, the conversation frequently revolves around those pesky memory lapses, sagging body parts and the constant patching of our once glowingly healthy bodies. But I’ve discovered other aspects of my life that have changed with the onset of my golden years that seldom crop up in conversations with my fellow AARPers. So, for curiosity’s sake, I conducted an informal poll with 18 of my friends and discovered, almost to a person, we have acquired the same altered priorities: up with people, down with stuff.
It’s a given that people, especially family, are important to all mankind, but at our age we seem to have a renewed interest in people from our past – both living and dead. When I was younger, attending family reunions was a favor to my excited mother. I just couldn’t muster much enthusiasm over the old documents, pictures and stories passed around amongst the older kinfolk in my mother’s gigantic family. But recently, when my cousin, a dedicated genealogist, told me that my 5 times great grandmother, Dicy Langston, was an American Revolutionary War heroine, I promptly googled my ancestor and spent hours soaking up her daring exploits. Similarly, I have recently dedicated my entry hall to very old photos of various long gone family members. Not once has a younger family member expressed curiosity about these folks, nor would I probably have at their age. But now I find myself wishing, like my friend Karen, that I “had paid more attention to my parents’ and grandparents’ stories of the ‘olden days.’”
Along with the connection we feel with our familys’ long-past history, my pollees and I share a desire to rekindle past relationships with relatives and friends we had totally lost touch with in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. A couple of years ago I attended a class reunion after a hiatus of 25 years and to my surprise discovered that age is the great equalizer. The interest we had previously expressed in each others’ resumes at early reunions had been replaced with the simple joy of reconnecting. In my case, five of my close high school girlfriends now get together annually for a short retreat where we laugh, catch up, and travel a little down memory lane. Similarly, a few years ago I began traveling regularly with two of my long lost cousins who have now become my dearest friends.
Our passion for people is matched by an ever more passionate desire to purge. Like many of our friends, my husband and I were not long ago faced with the daunting task of clearing out my parents’ house after their passing. As I evaluated each object, I discovered that there was very little I wanted to keep – just pictures and small mementos of our past. This sad experience led to my reassessing the piles of stuff we’ve accumulated in our home of 30+ years and determining much of it has to go. So I wasn’t surprised when I discovered in my poll that many of us are in the midst of pitching and donating, and frequently basing our buying decisions on the finite time we have left on the planet. After all, why spend a lot more money on a 50 year roof when you’re pretty sure you won’t be around to see it wear out?
So why don’t our altered attitudes, rather than our changed health and looks, dominate my Boommates’ conversations? I don’t really know, maybe those changes are just more subtle than the shock of glancing in the mirror and seeing our mothers. In the meantime, anybody need a set of 1960’s encyclopedias?