Our Lives

Our Lives: Hitting the half-century mark

CorrespondentOctober 26, 2013 

CindySchaefer.AL.050113.JEL

Cindy Schaefer.

JLEONARD@NEWSOBSERVER.COM — JULI LEONARD

All my growing up years, I was told that one day I would appreciate being the youngest. I had to wait a long time, but this year that day finally came.

My birthday is in November, and the year I was to turn 6 it was decided I was ready for first grade; those birthday cutoff dates weren’t so hard and fast back in the day. And so began the years of being last. The last among my classmates to hit double digits. The last to become a teenager. The last to get a driver’s license. A full year younger than some of my friends.

But this, finally, has been my year. Since January, I’ve watched via Facebook as former classmates hit the big 5-0, often hearing from them, “See, aren’t you glad now that you are the youngest?” Somehow, it seemed like long-awaited justice. As an adult, age hasn’t mattered that much to me, but this has honestly been fun.

Alas, all good things must soon come to an end.

I’ve been trying to figure out how it happened. How did a half-century pass so quickly? When did I start measuring my life in decades instead of individual years? Reminder to self: Don’t blink.

My 20s were jam-packed: graduating from college, first big-kid job, marriage, first house, three babies. Lots of firsts. Not many lasts.

The 30s were spent raising the children while juggling a career and coming to grips with a child’s chronic illness and all the challenges that go with that. Eventually, the career fell by the wayside as I learned the slogans are wrong. Sometimes, you can’t do it all.

The 40s brought teenagers, colleges, a daughter’s wedding and memorable travels. That decade was also the one that made me older than my parents were when I moved away from home.

And all of a sudden, here I am, teetering precariously on the peak of that proverbial hill. Old enough to be a grandmother even. And although inside my head I’m still much younger, it’s sobering to know that more of my days are probably behind me than stretch ahead. After being carded well into my late 20s, I now find people are rarely surprised anymore when I reveal my age. I’ve even been given the senior discount unbidden. My children are all in their 20s now, embarking on their own decade of firsts. Their maturity and good choices are letting me relax a little and look forward to the next decade.

I don’t buy into the whole “50 is the new 40” thing. Fifty is 50, every way you look at it. And I am surely looking the part. There are the gray hairs and the occasional creaking bones. I even wear glasses on the tip of my nose – something I vowed I would never do after a year with a high school geometry teacher who stared us down over the top of her specs. But now that I’m here, I just don’t care that much anymore. That’s the real beauty of 50. Along with the wrinkles comes, hopefully, a bit more wisdom. Many of life’s accomplishments have already come and gone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any left. Life is a journey and this is just one more step.

In at least one way, this birthday will be no different from many others. I will celebrate as I have for the past 16 – with three girlfriends on a leave-the-madness-behind beach weekend. The cast of characters has changed – only two of us remain from the original group – but the agenda never wavers. Game playing, book reading, lots of sitting on the balcony watching the waves crash. And laughter. Oh, the laughter.

Turns out, that last part is in the Bible. “This fiftieth year is sacred – it is a time of freedom and celebration ...” (Leviticus 25:10). OK, so God probably wasn’t talking about my birthday here – and there is more to the verse – but I’m embracing it anyway. My heart is filled with joy for what has been and with anticipation for what is yet to be.

I may be getting older, but I’m not ready to stock up on the polyester pants just yet.

cschaefer63@nc.rr.com 

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