Some aspects of getting older are so… surprising. This regardless of the bazillion opportunities to acclimatize to it, since aging happens all the time everywhere to everything. Still, I find myself doing double-takes in the mirror. There I’ll be, minding my own business, and just happen to glance up at the glass. As it turns out, I habour in my mind an idea of what I look like, obviously retrieved from some time ago, because the face staring blankly back at me is not it.
But it’s not the physical changes that make me most aware that I’m getting older, but my slowly evolving relationship to the people closest to me. Monday spawns these insights most frequently, because that’s the day that my mother has been coming over for visits with me and the kids for years. She brings groceries, makes lunch and dinner, and plays. It’s incredibly helpful.
In the last year or so in particular, I’ve noticed some changes. Basically, my mom is slowing down a bit. She’s in her 70s; frankly, it’s about time. But it was a hard-nosed woman who raised me, the one who sometimes reminded me that sleeping was a waste of time. She’s used to going hard and strong, and she can’t really do that anymore, at least not how she once could.
No one is more mystified by the changes than she. “I’m tired at night,” she’ll confess, “I can’t keep my eyes open after the 11 o’clock news.” Or she’ll ruefully recount her memory lapses (which happen to me just as often but whatever). Then there was the time when the rain started spitting on my outdoor clothes racks, and I rushed to bring in the double load. My mom seemed to pick off the items one by one, as if selecting the best pieces. “Quick, Mom, quick!” I cried. She replied flatly: “I’m a slowcoach now.”
My mom is completely able, and far from being anything but soundly independent. She helps my siblings more than we help her and we turn to her for our bearings. I still remember the moment when my husband’s and my musings to buy an income property solidified into a real possibility for me: it was when we told my mom about it and she didn’t think it was stupid.
But there is something of a shift in the air. I take notice when the fiddling with the carseat takes a good while, or how she can’t comfortably carry my toddler anymore. Walking down the street with my mom and my kids, I’m becoming acutely aware that I am the head of this familial triad. I’m the only party in my prime, and the weight of competence falls squarely on my shoulders.
I’m in charge.
And presumably I have been for a good while, but it feels more real now. Something about being the decision-maker, the place when the buck stops, my kids’ best bet, is increasingly imprinting itself on me. About going to bat not just for me in the morning, every morning, regardless of pretty much everything.
Being an adult, which I’ve been for a couple of decades with some success, is a lot different than being an adult taking care of children and maybe soon helping to take care of parents. And here I have to add that this latter prospect isn’t frightening or worrying; there’s a part of me that genuinely looks forward to returning some of the care that my mother has gifted to me and my family for so long.
But it all has a gravity to it, more powerful than the forces working on my face and body. I feel closer to the ground because of it, more securely attached to the here and now, and to the people I love. I feel older.