The joys in growing old – on reaching the ¾ century mark!

Yes, I’ve done it, I’m made it to 75. Just think, if I’d only made it to 70, I would have left this Earth still naively convinced that the world really was becoming a kinder, more inclusive place. That illusion has certainly been smashed to smithereens in the past 5 years. The reality that humans really are a work in progress, at best excruciatingly slow progress, has become all too real.

It never crossed my mind to post about my own birthday until a few weeks ago, when an article appeared in my news feed reporting on Debra Ferrell, a woman who, when unable to celebrate her 53rd birthday with family because of the pandemic, decided to carry out 53 acts of kindness to strangers instead. That had me sit up and take notice. I hadn’t thought anything about my birthday until then, but suddenly I thought, “Wait a minute, I have a milestone birthday coming up, I could do something special for others, too.” But then I saw how much advanced planning that had taken on her part and came to realize that it couldn’t work for me. Not in two weeks. I couldn’t reach out to 75 strangers and satisfy their wants or needs in the middle of tightening COVID restrictions that quickly. Maybe I can come up with a year-long kindness project for this year of being 75 instead.

In the meantime, I thought maybe I could come up with a list of 75 things I am grateful for. I’ve had an uncommonly fortunate life, and I was pretty sure I could come up with such a list, but once I started I realized that it would be awfully long, as well as awfully boring to anyone but me. However, a few thoughts about gratitude in aging came to me that might be of interest. Perhaps my musings will give you pause to think about how what’s most important to you might change in your “later years”. Or to put it another way, at some point in your journey will the importance of the items on your bucket list give way to the quality of your relationships with the special people in your life?

I have a somewhat different approach to aging than many, I think probably because both my parents died in their 50s. As a result, somewhat irrationally I guess, I never expected to live this long, it just happened. Never ceases to amaze me. I just enjoy all this extra time I’ve been given. 🙂

Since I got on this gratitude kick a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for that my parents truly missed by having their lives end far too soon.

I’ve done a LOT of amazing traveling that my parents never got to do, and I’ve gotten much joy in witnessing the astounding variety of landscapes, wildlife, and cultures the world has to offer. But no matter how wonderful all those experiences were – and they were, I don’t think that’s something my parents necessarily truly missed. Not at the end of the “day”, not in the overall scheme of things.

I’ve had all that extra time to share ordinary, everyday experiences with friends, as well as extraordinary ones – and to make new friends along the way. But my parents were good at enjoying the time they spent with friends and I don’t think more of that is something that they really missed. They made the most of those opportunities when they had them and fully appreciated the strength of their bonds of friendship.

I would have been sorry to have missed some of the very special opportunities I had in my career to make a difference at my university, much of which happened at an age past my parents’ final ages, but then again, I wouldn’t have known the difference, and my parents both were fortunate in that they enjoyed their work and felt well respected in their workplaces throughout their careers.

I would have been very sorry to have missed several years of long distance running with my two best friends, my husband and my brother. And we were decidedly older than my parents got to be when we began that pursuit. Starting and completing those 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons together were as special as it gets. For me, that was a joy that I’m grateful I didn’t miss. However, I’m pretty sure my parents would have thought that was something to miss at any cost!

But … and here’s where it becomes clear to me what’s really important, my father never got to meet my husband or walk me down the aisle. That’s something he missed.

He never got to see any of us married or meet our spouses. My Mom never got to see my younger brother get married. That is something they missed.

My Dad never got to know that he was a grandfather or to know any of his precious 9 grandchildren. My Mom just barely got to meet her first two grandchildren – our kids. To me the tragedy has always been that their grandchildren never had a chance to know these two special people, but not having the joy of knowing their grandchildren is something they truly missed.

My father – and for the most part my mother – never got the chance to watch their kids become responsible, independent adults, and then supportive spouses and parents. That is something they missed. For me, that has been a true joy.

They never got the chance to enjoy being empty-nesters, just the two of them together again, with their kids off to university and then establishing their own lives. That is something they missed. And, yes, that’s a joy as well.

And they never got the chance to be retired together, having the time to choose what you’re going to do and not do, and eventually reaching the stage that Lionel Hardcastle charmingly described as “doing very little, slowly.” If you get to that stage and are still able to share it with the person you love, you are very lucky indeed.

So, from where I stand at this advanced milestone age, I realize how lucky I have been to be able to experience these defining moments in life that my parents missed, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Of course, if I could start running again that would be great, too!

 

 

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69 Responses to The joys in growing old – on reaching the ¾ century mark!

  1. jane tims says:

    I have also had an uncommonly great life with few regrets and lots of accomplishments. Your post has inspired me to think of the many positives in my life. And to know that more are yet to come.

  2. K E Garland says:

    Happy BELATED Birthday Jane! Your blogging presence is a gift in itself. Speaking of which, here’s an unsolicited bday idea…maybe you can post 75 blogs 😉

  3. Paulie says:

    What a heartfelt piece Jane. A beautiful retrospective of a life well lived and more importantly of a gratitude for that life. It’s too often that those of us who have been fortunate in life look back with a focus on the negative.

    I have a laundry list of regrets in my life but they have more to do with my own personal failings and not any particular bad fortune or hardship. Fortunately, the good fortune of health and age has allowed me to realize those failings and to make amends when possible and cringe when not possible.

    Your piece has taught me a lot. Thank you for that.

    As for the recount – sorry, but it wasn’t rigged.

  4. somekindof50 says:

    Great post and Happy Birthday!

  5. iidorun says:

    Happy birthday, Jane! No wonder you are so wise! A life lived with minimal regrets and maximum gratitude is a life well lived. Hope you enjoyed your special day!

  6. Very inspiring, and I’m laughing at your closing graphic. Happy birthday! – Marty

  7. LA says:

    Happy Birthday!

  8. OmniRunner says:

    Congratulations! Growing older is an accomplishment. I might add it to my bucket list! I think we all should.

  9. eden baylee says:

    Happy birthday Jane! Wishing you many more.

    75 is the new 50, don’t you know? 😉

    eden

  10. What a wonderful post, and congratulations on reaching 75! I’m at 65 and I have no bucket list. Nor do I intend to make one. I’m happy with the experiences and continue to pursue writing goals. Most of all, I look forward to watching my granddaughter grow. Family’s always been first for me, and I feel grateful to have seen one of my children marry and give birth a year later. My mom passed three months before my daughter’s wedding. She would have loved her great grandchild dearly. I’m doing my best to stay healthy so I can stick around as long as possible.

  11. Roy McCarthy says:

    Happy birthday Jane – I don’t think many people take you for 75. A thoughtful retrospective there. Life’s certainly too short to harbour regrets – regret, what a useless noun. I, too, have been very fortunate health wise and so continue to enjoy each day in turn without wishing for more.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Roy. Ah, regrets. I relate to the lyrics of one of my favourite songs, My Way: Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Of course it sounded better when Frank Sinatra sang it!

  12. Jean says:

    Happy birthday, Jane! A wonderful contemplative post.

  13. What a wonderful milestone! Happy Birthday! I also had parents that died relatively young, my Mother from cancer at 59 and my Dad from heart disease at 64; our eldest was only 6 years old when Mom died and ten when my father passed away. It has always been sad to me that my children never knew their grandparents.

    I love all that you listed here as things to be grateful for. We are so very, very blessed and it is important to reflect on all those blessings. What better time than a milestone birthday to do so? Awesome stuff here.

  14. Thanks for posting, Jane. It has never been more important to reflect on the positives of what we have rather than bemoaning what we don’t have. Your posts are always uplifting but most especially this one. I have a milestone birthday coming up this month as well, albeit a different milestone than yours, but you’ve got me starting to think about my own now as well as yours.

    What a great milestone post to celebrate an important milestone birthday; one I hope you will get to celebrate multiple times in special ways over the next year. Happy, happy day … and many more.

  15. Happy Milestone Jane! An inspiring post, full of reality alongside positivity and good vibes. I did the Milestone birthday last September and our family & grandchildren in Houston sent me a card for a 7 year old, with a small 5 written after the large 7. I’ve kept it on the shelf above my desk to remind me to continue not to behave my age. And during this endless lockdown I’ve taken to occasionally doing an inventory of the things I am grateful for. I’ve never been a distance runner (short distance sprints were what I was good at), so am full of admiration for your marathons, 10k runs etc. Enjoy your birthday, and claim – with pride – being 75!

  16. Karen Mason says:

    Happy Birthday dear Jane. After reading your blog, I am bursting with gratitude and joy as I imagine all of the beautiful days and years to come. My father died at 50 and I battled a life threatening illness at 50. The gratitude I felt turning 51 this year was astounding. I plan to follow your lead and celebrate the goodness of others and the beauty of getting older. With love, Karen

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Karen, dear friend, your comments and a few others make me so glad that I decided to post these personal reflections. Just so you know, the world is a better place because of the goodness and generosity of spirit you always show others. By the time we can finally come to Ottawa, many moons from now, we will probably actually be able to see each other! Meanwhile, enjoy single every day with your beautiful family, as I know you will. <3<3

  17. bernieLynne says:

    Happy 75th birthday. I share your birthday but not your experience. My mom is doing little slowly at 95 and my father died at 93. They did have the joy of being grandparents and seeing most of their grandchildren become adults.
    But even given that I still practice gratitude and for that I can thank my life as a trauma OR nurse. It made me realize that in the blink of an eye life can change so being grateful and truly living each day being present is important. So while I don’t get hugs today I am grateful that my children and grandchildren can come out for a fire, the weather is decent and the sun is finally shining.
    Take care Jane and enjoy your special day.

  18. A year long kindness project. I can’t wait for your upcoming posts. Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on the milestone, Jane. Wishing you your favorite things today and happiness always.

  19. Happy, happy 75th birthday my very special blogging friend!! You always make me stop and think!! I hope you will be blessed with many more spectacular birthdays and bless ME with your daily posts that help me see things in different ways and appreciate what I have and appreciate the family I have around me. You’re attitude and insight is an inspiration to all that follow and read your blog!! Loving you from Virginia, your friend, Rita

  20. A very happy birthday to you! Milestone birthdays are always a time for reflection, and your post does this beautifully.

  21. Happy Birthday Jane from the West Coast to the East. I turned 70 on December 22, my husband and I went to this island retreat I am writing from now due to covid no celebration with friends and family. Like you I have lived a life of privilege and lived past my parents ages of death. We climbed to the top of a nearby bluff and surveyed the ocean and mountains and I gave thanks for the ability to do that.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, West Coast Woman. Lol, I can’t think of a better thing to be grateful for than to be climbing a bluff and gazing at the majestic scenery of the west coast.

  22. Robert Brown says:

    Dear Jane, 75 is such a beautiful number. I’ve found that I have experienced more joy, more curiosity, more peace, more expansiveness, more openness, fewer rough edges, more acceptance, the list goes on………For this I am grateful. You are experiencing much the same.Have a beautiful 75, much love, Bob and Joyce

  23. Jean Mayer says:

    Love your writing, Janie, and this was very timely for me as my 65th(!) is coming up. Thanks for putting things in perspective once again. (And Happy Birthday!!!)

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. Aha, 65 coming up next month, eh? In case you’re looking for a goal for that milestone, I was 65 when Phil and I ran our NYC marathon! 😊❤️

  24. Inkplume says:

    Lovely post. Thank you for sharing and Happy Birthday!

  25. Happy Birthday Jane, but I cannot imagine you and Howie ever doing very little slowly!

  26. AMWatson207 says:

    Gratitude itself is a blessing; it means that you’re paying attention. Congratulations on your landmark year!

  27. AP2 says:

    75 is an incredible milestone Jane. Every year, every month, every week, every day is a blessing. Hope you have a wonderful birthday. Regards, AP2 🙏

  28. Happy Birthday Jane 🎂💐🥂 Also consider the benefit that your senior years will have when it comes to priority in receiving the vaccine. It’s an additional benefit of aging these days. Wishing you many more years of health and happiness.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Francine. To be honest, since I have the luxury of staying home or wearing my mask and being careful, I’d rather that grocery store workers, truck drivers, and teachers had priority over me. Regardless, I’m afraid the long haul is not over. Sorry about all those homes in exotic places just waiting for an adventurous house-sitter!

      • I understand and appreciate your point about not all of us in the vulnerable sector being so at-risk. I am strict with myself on determining whether something is truly essential, so I believe the risk factor for me is far lower than for many younger people. As for the house-sitting, I know I will appreciate the opportunities so much more when I can return to it. For now, I’ll just shiver away (or bundle up) in Canada 😎

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Francine, you should have many people yearning for someone just like you to come house sit for their perfect house in the perfect place as soon as the pandemic’s under control!

  29. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Ah the joys of aging gracefully and I love the expression “doing very little, slowly”.

  30. Once again thanks for your thoughts and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Now you really have me thinking as my 72nd approaches. My Dad died at 69 so didn’t get to meet my kids but luckily my Mom stayed around for another 30 years after that and did get to meet them and spend lots of time with them. I truly do feel so fortunate to have a wonderful life.

  31. I love your attitude, Jane. You inspire me.
    Happy 75th year!

  32. DM says:

    Happy Birthday Jane! 75 is a birthday that needs to be celebrated. I am glad you told me (us) 🙂 You are blessed. My mother (who will turn 86 in a couple of weeks) still lives with my dad who is a couple of years older. They “do very little, slowly” (love that phrase) now too. She can not believe the calendar says she’s that old. Tells me regularly, that, time for her seems to go even faster the older she gets. It is surreal how fast the years slip by. Take care. DM

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