At 71 years of age, I am beginning to understand how time and age changes energy and perspectives. Over a twenty-five year span, my parents were our neighbors allowing me the opportunity to watch them gradually slow down. I did not understand where their energy went. They were in their later years (close to my age now!) and I was in my prime. My energy was high and moving fast, theirs slow and go.
My calendar was full with family and friend activities, business meetings, board meetings, soccer, and volleyball games with the kids. Their calendar was mostly a blank sheet with reading and resting high on the agenda. One event a day or a week was exciting and enough. I did not understand how they could be so comfortably placid since my family life was filled with countless events daily.
I watched their interests slowly dwindle. For years, my dad was an avid garage sale aficionado. Like old guys do, he started out early in the morning to find his prized old tool treasures. Never paying too much for anything, he would bring his finds home, polish and fix the tools and then put them on display in his overly large garage. When he was starting his dissent into Alzheimer’s, he sold his collection to someone who started a tool museum. Mom was always a good volunteer and found a variety of groups to interact with. She touched into the arts, music and genealogy, but, mostly, she delved deep into her spiritual interests. She read all the time almost to the end of her life. Her large library was full of history books, English novels, spiritual tomes, but most especially, early California books featuring her family. She was a constant and curious learner, which kept her mind lively.
By the time they were in their mid eighties, Dad had to be placed in a facility to assist him with his disease. Mom continued to drive to see him until her foot misplaced the brake for the accelerator and she did major damage to both the front and rear of her car. Although she wanted to continue driving, she was unsafe as were people and cars around her. Finally, her doctor informed her she was not to drive any longer. Mom rightly felt her freedom was compromised and, it was, but she and the streets were safer. I was now the driver, grocery shopper, and helper as mom became more dependent. We included her in our evening meals, and when friends came over, she was an honored guest whom our friends loved. However, she graciously stayed a short time, as she did not want to interfere with our lives.
My husband and I are now in our early seventies. We are still very active, hiking, biking, going to the gym and meeting up with friends, but I am beginning to understand. We are slowing down a bit. Driving at night is still ok, but not preferred. Staying home with a movie is just right. Volunteering a big plus. Dining with the kids is always fun, but hanging out with their friends puts me in a time warp of interfering, just like mom. I feel like an outsider not wanting to be overbearing nor demanding of their time. I understand the dynamic of exiting at the right time.
Now that we are retired, our calendar has switched to fun events rather than work demands. I am reading more and exploring more of what I want in these slower years. I appreciate the levels of change that I saw with my parents and am now seeing with myself. Being aware of this new dimension of an aging mind and body, I now understand.