The Big Five-Oh.


Next year, I’ll be 50.  Half a century – you know, Nifty Fifty – ripe fodder for jokes about ‘Old-Timer’s Disease’, gag party gifts like adult diapers and Geritol, and paybacks for all the ribbing I gave my sisters as they reached that golden age.  

Fifty isn’t old.

Fifty isn’t traumatic.

Fifty isn’t the end of the world or the end of my life.  At least, I hope it isn’t.

But fifty is the number of years my sister Missy was given on this earth, and as I approach that birthday, my head and heart are filled with a certain apprehension – what if my life stopped right here?  Am I ready?  Would I fight it, or would I accept it?  Would I be strong enough?  I confess that because my sister Wendy died just a week shy of her 43rd birthday, I could think of nothing else when I reached 42.

When my sisters died, I was an adult, and so were they.  I am sure it is much more difficult for people who lost their brothers or sisters as children – I cannot even imagine, and I cannot speak for them.  Children tend to blame themselves when things like abuse or divorce happen; I suspect that they would also blame themselves if they lost a sister or brother.  I did not have that guilt; as a grown up, I knew it wasn’t my fault.

Still, the sad regret is there – the what ifs…the if onlys… the second-guessing…the replaying of events in my head.  And it’s not just family whose passing makes me compare my lifespan to theirs.  My friend Jon was only 32 when he perished in a house fire.  My dear friend Shirley was 47 when she succumbed to a pulmonary embolism (blood clot).  At each of those ages, I looked in the mirror and asked the questions for which I had no real answer.  I suppose this is a normal part of grieving and moving on.

Life offers no guarantees.  Today I talked with a friend about people who overcome extreme personal adversity, such as the loss of limbs or a grave illness, to live their lives not defined by, but in spite of, those circumstances.  We talked about how attitudes toward death can determine how we live.  We agreed that even for people like us, who do not live under the cloud of a serious disease or catastrophic injury, life holds no promises.  We talked about how life can change – or end – in a moment.  Can we ever really be ready?

So, at 32, with young children, I was grateful, but still checked my smoke detectors.  

At 42, I looked at my own family and was thankful that my sister’s passing would leave no children motherless. 

At 47, I thought about Shirley and how much she had done for others all of her short life. 

And when 50 comes, I will think about Missy and what a terrific grandma she would have been, and I will cherish every moment with my family.

Because sometimes, it feels like borrowed time.

photo credit tawest64

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StuckonZero

StuckonZero

Aging like a fine wine. ;-)

6 thoughts on “The Big Five-Oh.”

  1. My biological grandmother died of a brain tumor at the age of 35, so until my mother passed that age I had an extreme fear of losing her. I am sorry for all the losses you have suffered. A reminder that we never know when our loved ones will be taken from us, so we must make the most with the time we have. Oh, and 50 is the new 40!!

    1. So sorry about your grandma. That is way too young. I guess this area, the Pacific Northwest, is a hotbed of brain tumor diagnoses…and MS. I have personally known three people with them, two of whom lost their lives in that battle. I understand about being scared for your mom.
      Thank you for your kind words. One thing I have learned from it all is that in the end, love is what really matters. Adjust your priorities accordingly.

      And if 50 is the new 40, I can’t wait! 😉

  2. I’m sorry about your loses! My dad felt the same way you do when it came to 50 because of all the young deaths in his family. He is now 75 and going strong. And I think 50 is the new 30. It is stories like this that remind that every moment is precious that we get to spend with our loved ones. Thank you for that reminder!

    1. So glad to hear your Dad’s doing great at 75! Good for him! You are so right that every moment is precious, and I like 50 being the new 30 even more than the new 40!! Thanks, Kira!

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