Chronologically, I am sixty-three.
When I was a child, I thought everyone in their sixties was ancient. People in their sixties walked slowly, assisted with canes. They took pills all the time, and always had upset stomachs. Many of them were never to be surprised, or disappointed, because they had dangerous things called “heart conditions.” Their hair was too gray, their skin was too soft, and they could never remember what they’d told you, especially if you were counting on it.
On the other hand, they were always happy to see you, and they usually carried candy, which they’d give you and ask you not to tell your parents. They always had time to take you to the movies, or go with you to the store, where they loved to buy you presents. They taught you things your parents assumed you’d learn on your own: how to say your rosary, how to make a braid, how to sit like a lady, how to crochet a bookmark, how to whip eggs into perfect merengue.
Sometimes they’d die, and you’d cry for hour after hour.
The pain would resurface at unexpected moments for the rest of your life.
But you didn’t know that.
You knew that old people could turn the tide of your emotions. If you were crying, they could make you laugh. If you were confused, they could explain what you needed to learn. If you were lonely, they would make you feel loved.
The older I got, the younger people in their sixties seemed to get.
And now that I’m here, I’m amazed at many of my contemporaries.
They don’t seem to have gray hair anymore.
They ride bicycles. They play tennis. They run marathons. They swim.
Those who’ve lost spouses for whatever reason date like overly-hormonal teenagers, unconstrained by the fears of accidental pregnancy or parental disapproval.
They don’t wear baggy pants or flowered dresses; sports attire, shorts, t-shirts and jeans seem to be their favorite apparel. They wear what we sported in the sixties and seventies, when rebelling against our aging parents.
Are we rebelling against ourselves?
If I may be truthful, though, I stopped rebelling a while back.
I let my hair grow gray.
I picked up a transparent Lucite cane that always makes my gait steady.
I stopped wearing high-heeled shoes, and embraced the convenience of going about in sandals. I even got the ones with Velcro closures, so I wouldn’t have to strain too hard with buckles.
I look the way people used to look when they were sixty-three.
But oh, my mind is so much younger!
I want to go to the beach. So what if I can’t get up if I fall on the sand? I don’t want to stay where it’s dry anyway; I long to dive headfirst into the surf. I want to swim out to sea, to ride boisterous waves, to flirt with a dolphin, to incur the lifeguards’ wrath.
I want to go to a club. I want to kick off my shoes and dance. I long to grab a microphone and sing karaoke as though I were performing in an arena. I want to drink a little too much, and laugh a little too loudly. I want to be a little too foolish.
I want to meet my husband again. I want to be astounded by his beauty and his masculinity. I want to be amazed that he responds to my attentions. I want to marry him again, I want to have his children one more time… I might even want more children than we had before!
I want to start my career again, and devote myself to work I enjoy, without worrying about security or remuneration. Both proved to be unreliable.
I want to hang out with my friends again, leaving the house at midnight and concentrating on having fun. I don’t want them to worry about my sugar. Even though they look better than I do, I don’t want to worry about their hearts, or their knees, or their upcoming Lasik surgery.
I want us to be young. As young as we were. As young as young ever could be.
As young as we’ll never be again.
And so, I am sixty-three.
I wait for a young person to enter my life: someone I can ply with candy. Someone I can take to the movies. Someone I can take to the store, for whom I can buy presents.