When I write about the various aspects of my life as a mature (ah, isn't that a great description …), frum women, I can't help but feel as if I'm in a time warp. Me? Mature? I get a thrill from turning off all the lights and sitting on the living room floor with my friends (actually, they're my grandchildren, but please don't tell) singing slow, hartzige songs before collapsing into a mound of giggles. But then, when our stomachs begin to rumble, they jump up like ripened kernels of popcorn, and I, well, to put it succinctly, don’t — or, to be more accurate, can't. And that's when I realize that — hey lady! You ain’t seventeen anymore!
Just to remind me that I am now an official member of the Golden Age Club, yesterday, I received an official government letter wishing me mazel tov on my having become a senior citizen, and another letter from the bank inviting me to an evening on the financial aspects of retirement (or how to make your non-existent assets grow, a type of yesh mei'ayin). Although more often than not I have to pinch myself to believe it, chronologically I am old enough to be considered mature, which means that I am probably old enough to write about it!
I'm sure that there are other women reading this who can relate to my feelings of disbelief. A close friend of mine, who is approaching seventy and still teaching full-time, told me that she once entered the teachers' room and was surprised to see a group of "real old ladies" sitting there, until she realized with a start that she was the oldest of the bunch – with the wrinkles to match.
I was recently reminiscing with a close friend — our relationship goes back to our days in Bais Yaakov Yerushalayim, over 43 years ago! — about how we used to sit in the park together, oohing and aahing over our little ones. I actually thought I'd be pushing a stroller forever! With a bittersweet smile, she asked, "Debbie, do you remember that elderly lady who used to come to the park? She always told us that she felt young; that it seemed like just yesterday she was a young mother trying to cope with temper tantrums and bedtime. And then she'd wistfully sigh and say something about how those years flew by so quickly, and that she can't believe she's already a great grandmother. Back then, it sounded crazy. Bedtime often seemed like eternity! But now looking back, I feel the same way."
Yup, people might see us as wise old women, but we know the truth (but please, don't divulge this to my sweet, trusting grandchildren): yes, we do have more experience, but we're still very much works in process, with lots of growing up to do.
This morning, I spoke with the coordinator of our local community center's Senior Citizen club about instituting new classes for the coming year. When I mentioned some of the projects I am working on, or hope to work on in the future (or as my husband wryly commented, "Someday, Debbie, you'll figure out what you want to be when you grow up!"), I overheard the very wet-behind-the-ears secretary whisper to her equally young friend, "What an adorable old lady!" OUCH! Although I definitely have more wrinkles than she does (and in case I forget, I have my darling grandchildren to ask, "Bubby, what are all those funny looking creases covering your face?”) I am not adorable, or cute, and haven't been for at least 55 years (although according to my mother, a"h, prior to that I was very cute…). Senior citizens are people, just like everyone else, and most of us, or at least a large percentage of us, are dealing with a multitude of challenges, many of them unique to our age group, and to our new, changing roles in life, like going from being the shvigger to the shvigger of the shvigger.
My first granddaughter recently became a kallah – mazel tov! – and I'm still in a state of shock. When I came to the l'chayim, her younger brother raced over to me and almost yelled in my face, "Bubby, do you realize that in another year or so, you will hopefully be an elter-bubby?" It took me more than a few seconds to catch my breath. Yes, Yiddishe nachas is wonderful, but still, as with the transition to marriage, to motherhood, to shvigger-hood and bubby-hood, every graduation means leaving something behind and learning to adapt – no, that's the wrong word, to thrive and grow – with that new reality. Hopefully with this new column, I'll be able to share with my readers some of the wisdom that I will hopefully gain along the way.
Wishing all my readers a wonderful journey.
published in Binah, Jan. 7, 2016