Milestones, done differently…
I have a pretty good idea of which milestone I reached at which age, from talking to my parents over the years, from photographs or from my own memories. I was late to start walking and talking for example, though I’ve not stopped talking since. I was 5 or 6 when I put my crutches in the back of the wardrobe, and didn’t look back until I need a mobility scooter aged 18 at university.
I was 12 or 13 when I started worrying about boys, though wondered if anyone would ever be interested in me. I remember well the love letters from a boy called Danny when I was 14, who moved away shortly after, but I don’t think of him as my first proper boyfriend. However, by ‘proper boyfriend’ I mean someone that I really, really loved. That only happened last year, just before my 30th birthday. Things like that make me feel old, especially when I consider that by 25, my Mum had two children, effectively two babies, because of my level of need. I wonder now if I’ll ever meet someone, or even if I need to.
Babies everywhere, but not mine!
I don’t know whether I ever thought I would be married with children by this stage or not. I think my mum would say the former. I am more and more aware of my age as more friends get married and/or have children. Even the friends who like me were waiting to meet someone are now married. I’ve got to the stage where I can be genuinely happy for them, meeting up with a close friend and her baby regularly, who I adore. Also, Sunday school will have exploded in numbers in a few years. I love that I’ll still have contact with lots of children because of church. It’s funny, no way would I have said that before I got my electric wheelchair, but it somehow makes me more approachable to most children, and has helped me be much more comfortable talking to them. I am more at their height I guess, and some kids are fascinated by what the chair can do, or the golf ball controller.
Am I always defined by the number I am?
Recently, someone told me I ‘look good for 30’! A backwards compliment, for sure! I definitely don’t feel 30. Some days I feel old, when the routine of care and the sameness of every day gets me down. Other times, I feel young and insecure as though I were a school kid again… usually when something goes wrong in the house and I don’t know what to do.
I might like to do Uni over again, with carers to do personal care, and PA’s to help with library access and so on, as I didn’t have care until a couple of years ago, and no PA till third year. I wish I had been strong enough to ask for these helps though and been able to concentrate my limited energy wholly on my studies. I don’t think I realised I was entitled, or thought my disability was ‘bad enough’ even though tiny things sapped my energy. It’s so easy to say ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ though… almost everyone must have some regret about something. I was so intimidated by everything too, fearful, and never feeling like I was ‘good enough’ to be there… I guess that is where some mature students have the edge. Do I wish I were a different age though? Probably not, unless I had more confidence to with it.
My Grandparents, examples of how to age!
On a slightly different tack, thinking about age makes me think of my three grandparents, who are 78, 76, and 88. Generally they all keep in fairly good health and all have active lives. They are amazing, and definitely defy stereotypes of ‘elderly people’. I hope I am like them when I am older. All of them look young for their age. My Gran recently came to visit, and someone asked how only she was. When I told them, their jaw dropped in shock, and they said how strong and healthy she seemed for her age.
In some ways it is easy to tell they’ve got much older (for example, my granddad has two hearing aids, but he is 83) I don’t remember him having any health problems at all until a few years ago. Trouble is, aside from Gran’s diabetes, I have more health problems than them all put together!! Maybe I am the aged one?!
2 thoughts on “Age, not just a number…”
Great post Jackie! I have had cause to think about age and aging quite a bit over the past few years – firstly because of watching both my mother-in-law and then my own mum get into their 80’s and struggle significantly with their health, and then because of my own health issues which struck with a vengeance at age 50. I love your own unique milestones – but then I guess each of us have ‘unique’ milestones because we each have our own unique story. I love, also, that children find you very approachable and you wonder if it is their curiosity about your wheelchair and the fact you are more their height. I would also say it is because of your lovely, sunny, open personality! My experience lately has been that I think children are a little scared of my walking stick (and therefore, me) – am wondering if it’s because all the old witches in fairy tales tend to be bent over a walking stick?!?
One of the more profound effects of having a stroke was that it made me feel like I had aged considerably overnight, even though I was the youngest patient in the stroke ward by about 20 years. Having to use a walking stick and the arm of a carer every time I left the house also made me feel frail and old. Gradually, as I see improvements in my condition I start to feel more like myself again, and my real age of 52, but I have had to work really hard to tell myself that 52 is not really that old and hopefully I’ve still got another 30 years ahead of me! Age, not just a number…..
Disability or Illness, or both! have such an effect on aging as you say… even if it’s just feeling old because your body feels old. A doc reckoned once my hips were twice my age… so they are 60!
I am glad you are starting to feel younger as you adapt to the stroke, and as you get stronger. I’d agree it is something we seem to associate with people as lot older You better had live for lots of years yet!!!