Today is my mom's birthday. Her 80th.
One of those nice round numbers that makes it mean something more. Every time you venture into another decade, somehow everything feels a little different, even if you are just 24 hours older than when you woke up the safe side of calendar marker. Imaginary or not, 40 does seem older than 39, 50 older than 49.
In our family there is this running theme started by one of my cousins, "you're not old until you're 80." It started with my grandmother, a woman who was not only the classic grandma to her family, but seemed to be this matronly anchor to friends as well. Not many people called her by her given name, Gladys, but more often by her family moniker, Nannie. Mom is now the matriarch of the extended family, and is "Aunt Bev" to most.
Time of course smooths out the edges on memory, mine especially, most of which seem to be clouded in movie flashback fog. Anyway, Nannie at 80 seemed much older than Mom at 80. Part of it is difference in scale of course. As a young kid, everyone seems so old. My parents were in their mid to late thirties when I was growing through my pre-teen years, and they seemed much older than I feel even now at 47. We are also living longer these days, and I think my Mom has been more active in trying to stay healthy, making 80 not what it used to be.
Still another part of it is lifestyle, and how you spend your time. In my head, Nannie stayed at home most of the time, though of course that probably isn't true. I am more tuned into what my Mom is up to. There is water aerobics, bridge and book club with friends, plays and the occasional opera with other friends, lectures at the UW, and of course their travel. I am happy to see her and my Dad (just a month shy of his own 80th birthday) doing those big trips to Europe that weren't feasible while raising four kids.
Still hard to wrap my head around all that they have seen in that time. Beyond the whole string of historical events and technological advances, there are all the (not so) little day to day things like building a career, creating a home, raising a family, and doing right by friends, family and the world. Though we tend to look back at the "big" events when rewinding a life, it is those million tiny moments that make up who you are and where you have been. And growing up, there were few big lectures about being a good person, just a thousand little demonstrations on how to be one.
I am eternally grateful for my family, and most of all for you Mom. I am blessed to be able to spend the big days and random Tuesdays at the dinner table with you and Dad. Mostly, though, I am just so happy that you both are still off discovering new lands and building a life when you've supposedly reached "old."
I think the notion that 80 is when you become old is being re-written. By you two.
Happy birthday Mom.