I feel like I have always been old. A woman broke up with me because she said she had no desire to date a man in his 70’s (I was about 25 at the time.)
Growing up, we didn’t have much money. All of my grandparents had either died or moved far away, but I had many surrogate grandparents. The community we lived in had lots of retired farmers, and they raised me, for all intents and purposes.
I would stay with them during the day in the summer, and after school during the school year. I would sit in the kitchen with the wives, who made homemade biscuits with religious devotion, and the best gravy on earth. (I no longer eat wheat much, but I can still make a hell of a gravy). I would ride the tractors with the men, and we would mend fences or sit in the shade in the heat of the day.
Often there were no other children around, so I learned to entertain myself. I would read, or go for long walks, or sit in the shade and chat with men who had retired from their labors. I learned the art of conversation and how to receive company. (To this day, if you come in my house, you are going to get offered something to drink, I don’t care who you are.)
I noticed seasons, learned the names of the trees and the birds and what sounds they make and I developed a strict attention to the weather report.
My musical tastes are catholic, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be country music from the 60’s and 70’s – the music I grew up hearing in the car and on the kitchen radios of those farmhouses.
So it sort of makes sense I am old. I was taught to be by old white men.
I don’t mind it. I am content with my own company, I have an appreciation for the news and the wider world and yet am content to operate locally, because all change begins locally. I learned to really listen to people, and when in doubt, to default to listen to people older than I am.
I don’t fear becoming older. I feel like I have been there forever. What I do fear, however, is no longer being contemporary. No longer keeping up. No longer learning new technology, no longer being current. Being bogged down in what I am so sure of that I no longer am open to new ideas. Of being afraid of new things, new ideas and new people.
My dad one time told teenage me that it wasn’t his job to be my friend – it was his job to teach me how to be an adult, and to move in the world without his help. It was my work to learn how to do it. I think about that all the time.
Likewise, I think my work now, in my mid-forties, is to learn how to be older than I am now. Because I will, if all goes right, be older than I am now for much longer than I will be the age I am now.
So I try to learn something new all the time. I try to put myself in new positions, to be exposed to new ideas. I try to read authors I have never read before and read lots of tech websites to stay current on the latest thing, even if I have no desire to own it. I have developed a wide circle of friends who are from different cultures, races and ethnicities than mine.
And I also love Murder She Wrote reruns. Because I am, inside, old.