I have been seventy for three days now. Am I supposed to have some insights already about what it’s like? The tests and trials went on right up to the day itself, the morning of which I had a fight with my husband.
I should know after 45 years of marriage that on a big day like this one he will leave the planning to me, or leave it to the very last minute. I even predicted this a few days earlier when I was talking to one of our children. That does not mean it did not disappoint me when that is exactly what happened.
Although he is very good at planning ahead on the big things like retirement and home improvements (for which I am awesomely grateful), I cannot count on my husband to plan for small things, like birthdays. But sometimes the birthdays feel big. And then I wish I didn’t have to ask for flowers, a dinner reservation, and, by the way, when you are in the church building working on your light-replacement project, could you check out the craft sale going on there for a nice scarf or necklace? See, that is the kind of thinking ahead I do all the time, the daily advance planning. Asking if he remembered to charge his phone so he can call somewhere for a reservation while I am at the hairdresser (he hadn’t, so he went to a nearby restaurant and made a reservation in person).
None of this surprised me because I know my husband well. So with age, knowledge should trump expectations and produce a kind of wisdom. Which it does, usually. Except when I am tired. Being tired means being irritable and being irritable means being exasperated by the nearest source of irritation, which is usually my husband. And I was tired on the morning of my birthday. So I picked a fight over all this.
I was tired because the evening before I had endured the ordeal of traveling across the state of Michigan in the first snowstorm of the season. Traffic was at a standstill for two and a half hours because of accidents. I managed a kind of Zen calm during that time because I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. (Whereas I think I can change certain things about my husband after all these years? Really, I don’t know where that illusion comes from.)
But Zen goes only so far when it comes to driving in snowstorms. You also need to concentrate, once you get moving, and hang onto the steering wheel and fight the boredom of going really slow. And the thing about being seventy (well it’s been creeping up for a while) is that all this can exhaust you and do strange things to your bones. When I stepped out of my car after what turned into a six-and-a-half hour ordeal my legs were so achy and wobbly that I almost collapsed to the garage floor.
(I don’t understand this thing aging legs do, taking a few moments to collect themselves after you’ve been sitting down before they can actually propel you forward. They are perfectly serviceable once they get going and can do squats and presses, no problem.)
But you have those physical limitations to deal with. So the next day you are more tired than you thought you would be, and before you know it you have precipitated several fights, just because you are tired.
Bottom line, the wisdom of elderhood can very easily be cancelled out by the physical limitations of elderhood.
Another example of this is when you say something really smart and wise in a group conversation, except you missed something because of your impaired hearing so what you said is totally out of context and strange sounding.
But my husband knows me, too. He knows that I like drapey scarves and that I don’t like florist arrangements but prefer to arrange flowers myself. He knows that the storms will pass and I will once again tolerate and adore him. Because he’s really cute.