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Reflections August 2019

My Baby Needs Bifocals? That’s Not Right.

By Susan Goldfein

But there is one other aspect of aging that I have yet to reconcile. It’s the realization that my own children, my babies, are now middle-aged, and in many respects, have caught up with me. What was I doing when their hair started to gray?

I have, over the years, come to accept the fact that I am an old person. Chronologically, anyway. Although like most of my peers, I find it difficult to reconcile the woman who lives inside my head with the one who was just offered a seat on the bus by a chivalrous young man. Nevertheless, realist that I am, I can’t pretend that the world at large does not notice my gray hair, chicly cut though it is, my collagen deficits, or my sensible shoes in place of stilettos.

I’ve made peace with the irregular blip on my EKG, and the fact that I now need medication. I’ve made peace with the need for certain body part replacements, and the fact that my eyesight ain’t what it was. All that, as well as the other indignities that come with another candle on the cake. (Hearing’s still okay, but we’re taking it one day at a time.)

But there is one other aspect of aging that I have yet to reconcile. It’s the realization that my own children, my babies, are now middle-aged, and in many respects, have caught up with me. What was I doing when their hair started to gray?

The other day, I was speaking on the phone with my youngest, who is about to turn 50. We chatted about, amongst other things, his recent eye exam. “Is everything OK?” I asked hesitantly.

Yes,” he assured me, everything was fine except that his vision had worsened. And, suddenly, we were discussing the benefits of progressive lenses over bifocals.

Bifocals? That, along with hearing aids, I had always regarded as an old person’s accessory. How could it be that my baby needs bifocals? If he’s old enough for bifocals, where does that put me? Somewhere up there with Mrs. Methuselah?

Reflecting back 10 years or so, I can now recall seeing the first specks of gray in my older son’s hair. That is, before his hairline began to recede and he started wearing his “do” closer to the scalp. Come to think of it, the specks were noticeable in my younger son’s as well. Was that before or after he informed me that his cholesterol was borderline and the doctor had prescribed a statin.

Along with these shared signs of aging, it is absolutely startling to recognize that our middle-aged children and we, their parents, have actually have become part of the same demographic. The evidence is everywhere.

This summer my “baby” will most likely receive a birthday notice from AARP, along with an invitation to join. If he does so, he and I will be entitled to the same senior discounts, and carry matching membership cards in our respective wallets. In a few years, if I decide to move to one of those 55+ adult communities, I won’t have to sneak him in in the trunk of my car. In fact, he could run for president of the co-op board without faking his ID. And just last night I saw an ad on TV that was attempting to convince seniors to purchase life insurance. Did I hear correctly when the announcer claimed to be talking to anyone between the ages of 50 and 85! As I noted above, my ears are still very much in working order.

I write for mature-market publications. Along with my cohorts, all of our adult children will soon be eligible for their subscriptions. (Some already are.) And personally, I belong to an
organization for professional women age 50 and over. While this excludes the males, the three daughters are more than welcome to join. We can carpool to the meetings.

And what might be the most fun? If we all enroll in the continuing education seminar entitled “Love, Dating, and Sex Over 50.” We can carpool to that one as well.

So, dear Gen X children, for better or worse, you have collided with both the Baby Boomers and us, the Silent Generation. Welcome.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece about my two Labrador retrievers, Bette and Davis, who lived with us from 8 weeks old to 16 years. In fact, the title of the essay became the title of my first book, How Old Am I in Dog Years? They were 13 and 14 when I wrote the essay, and my point was the many ways our puppies had caught up with us when one considered arthritis and hearing loss. Who would have thought that I would return to the same place, once again pondering the curiosities of life, and how in hell I got to where my own baby could possibly need bifocals?