That Shining, Golden, Sliver Of Youth...

Photo by Pixaby

Photo by Pixaby

I'm in the unique position of watching the joyful energy of teenage and the heart breaking decline of the elderly. The extreme joy of youth and the anguish of agedness is hard for me to get my head around.

It is so unfair.

I was at our high school's football game last night with both of my kids in attendance with all of their friends.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with several relatives who are quite elderly and feeling the multitude effects of aging. They are in their 80s and 90s.

Once, those folks were the young kids screaming at football games and having their own rowdy fun.

As my father's cousin once said "We thought we'd be young forever. We thought we ruled the world!" She was speaking of World War II days - of meeting at ballrooms to dance with sailors, of supporting the war effort any way they could, of making the best of every possible moment. Of feeling like youth was on their side forever.

It sounds glorious.

"I NEVER thought I'd end up like this. Never!" My spunky, 91 year-old aunt exclaimed through tears. It is heartbreaking to listen to. She lives in New York state, and I haven't seen her in a couple of years. She is in a rehabilitation center following gallbladder surgery and although she's been very capable for so long, she isn't so much anymore. She didn't even see it happening. Her decline has been falling on her like a cloak slowly enveloping her over the years. She has become emaciated and needs to put on weight. She can't get out of her hospital bed and get into the bathroom without help. Her knee that once helped her dance the night away and roller skate for hours is an enemy now, causing her excruciating arthritis pain from time to time.

She wants to return to the city where she grew up in, see her old friends, go to the places she used to go. But the city is having problems with crime now, her friends have passed away and the places she loved are closed up. And she cannot walk the streets there anymore and pop into the grocery store to get what she wants and stroll home like she used to. Her body won't let her.

When we look at older people, do we grasp that at one time, they were young capable, running around, acting crazy? Do we realize that when we see those with walkers, or that slow, unsteady gate or that limp that they weren't always that way? It boggles the mind to realize that even those of us who have taken good care of ourselves may see our physical bodies betray us.

I don't want to even think about how our minds can betray us. That is too frightening. When we know that Glen Campbell eventually forgot how to tune and play his guitar and that super-hot, long-haired 1970s poster pinup boy David Cassidy is now having his own battles with dementia, it seems surreal for us to even begin to fathom.

Most of us grew up watching George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life." Yes, we realize that Mary and George did the Charleston and that they lived through the war. We know the story takes place a while ago. But it's meaning is so relevant, even to this day. We can all relate to George. But do you know that THAT character - were he alive today - would be 110 years old? It doesn't seem possible.

Yes, I went to a high school football game last night. God, was it fun! I didn't even have a bota of something to drink like in college - didn't even need it!

I sat by adult friends throughout the night and I ended up by "The Rowdies" - the high school cheering section. It was nuts! The kids were dressed in theme to the nines - red, white and blue!

They chanted with the cheerleaders, waved flags, screamed loudly and looked hysterical. They had on full face paint, crazy hats, silly pants, wigs and capes!

I was toward the top of the bleachers and at the end of the night a girl from behind me took literal leaps and bounds over the bleachers to get down in a split second. I was amazed she didn't wipe out! So strong, so steady, so powerful.

Do they know how special they are? Do they understand the magic of this night and many others like it as they are in high school?  And many will continue to enjoy these festivities into college as well.

It's not to say that life isn't vital in our 20s, 30s and 4os...and beyond! It is. We can work hard to stay fit and healthy. We can achieve much.

But all too often, time is a demon - it steals who we are and what know ourselves to be. It brings sickness and deterioration.

I remember when my kids were very little. I quit my job to be with them. We spent our days doing cute, fun things. Painting pictures, sipping sodas, catching fireflies, playing in the backyard, running in the sprinkler. I told myself again and again "These are golden days."

They were.

The ghosts of those little toddlers have been whisked away by time. In their place is a pretty girl who is just about a woman, and a hilarious teen boy who keeps me laughing. Pimples pop up and are hidden by makeup or wiped away by Stridex.

The golden days and nights of high school now include taking pictures of groups of kids being silly for dance pictures, hosting study parties, going on college visits, chatting with the boyfriend before dates and girls coming over to get ready together.

For the end of junior high, the golden days and nights include leadership service at school helping younger peers, listening to deepening voices chanting cheers in the huddle as the football players finish practice, watching buddies from toddlerhood hang out on the patio and realizing you're having some trouble telling your son's clothes in the laundry from your husband's.

Aging is desired when we are young. We want to be the senior level student. We want to be "old enough" - old enough to drive, to be considered an adult, to drink legally, to live our own lives.

We wish for youth with age. Most of us do in one form or another. So can SOMEONE tell me how to tell my kids that these days - even if they aren't perfect all the time - are their glory days?

These four years of high school and four years of college - they are some of the most monumental years that stay with us for a lifetime. Further education beyond college molds us, gives us career opportunities, makes us ready for the professional world.

But high school and college years leave that mark on us for life socially and emotionally.

The Boss knows it: "Glory Days - they'll pass you by!" Bruce warns in song.

So, I build my aunt up and other older relatives up by listening to their stories. And I watch my kids be vital and enjoy life at football games and the many other "golden days" of their lives.

Funny how I've always used the phrase "golden days" when I burn in my mind pictures of my growing children, when "golden years" is typically used to describe our aging years.

As a middle-aged woman, I take it all in and remember where I have come from, and I hope I can bravely make my way to where I am about to go.

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