When I Grow Up

Do you remember the moment you knew for certain you were an adult? I don’t think age has much to do with it. I was reading Ann Patchett’s recent book of essays where she details the exact moment she felt like a full-fledged adult – the day she cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and all the trimmings, with guidance from a book (which seems fitting). I remember the day I got my driver’s licence, driving to town, window down, hair blowing, with a complete and utter sense of having arrived at a new place in my life. That didn’t qualify as adulthood, but merely a glimpse into what might be. It wasn’t my car. I didn’t pay for the insurance or pay for its repairs and upkeep, though my dad taught me to change the oil and change a tire, while he watched from the shade with a bottle of Coca Cola in his hand, calling out instructions as I leaned on the tire wrench. “You can do it,” he shouted.

I’m not sure I am an adult, certified or otherwise, even now. Perhaps I wandered off when the adult certificates were handed out. There are days when I want to throw myself on the floor in a heap of despair and have my dad come and make it all better, the way he used to, which is proof enough I’m not quite there yet. Adults shouldn’t be afraid of the telephone, further proof I don’t make the cut.

I was listening to a podcast on the “truth of aging” several months ago. I can’t even give a nod to which podcast I was listening to because … I can’t remember. A common ailment these days. The woman interviewed was in her nineties. She had never married or had children, a purposeful choice she said. Two things made her happy in life – gardening and reading. She lost her sight many years earlier and her mobility kept her housebound. Given the option, she would have checked out many years ago. I must confess, I judged her a bit as I listened. But it’s not easy to reinvent yourself without sight and without mobility, to turn to something else for comfort and joy and purpose.

My youngest daughter asked me years ago for a list of my acquired wisdoms. The list is a small one, a work in progress. I recently added to it. I was reading in bed, and I got up for a bathroom break. I removed my eyeglasses and set them on the bed behind me. Don’t do it, my conscience shouted. I’ll remember, you idiot, was my unkind response, shaking my head. Long story short –in the fourteen steps from bathroom to bed my memory failed. My eyeglasses are now in more pieces than they should be. I believe that there is a powerful magnet surrounding my door, and when I pass through it, on my way to run errands and get groceries, my memory is wiped clean and the list I had compiled to get me efficiently from A to B sits alone and forgotten on my kitchen table. Never forget your list is sage advice I included for Thea.

I remember the High School Reunion of 1994. What a spectacular time it was, seeing all those precious faces. The funny thing is – I remember thinking, as we gathered around tables, everyone talking at once with remember this stories, that we were all getting older. I was thirty-nine that year and I howl at having had that thought, back when all my parts worked, when I didn’t groan as I climbed from bed in the morning, and my hip didn’t sound like it was missing a piece. Ahh, the naivety of youth. Little did we know all our injuries from childhood would come back to haunt us. I looked in the mirror this morning while I brushed my teeth. The face looking back at me certainly qualifies as an adult, but I’m still not convinced.