First baby tooth. First baby tooth to fall out. First words. First reads. Riding a bike. Learning to drive. Cooking. Living independently. Choosing a partner. Having children. Milestones mark the journey of life, reminding us of befores and afters so that our time on earth doesn’t just pass by in a monotonous blur.

It is rarely a smooth ride. Even those whose parents try to steamroll the way end up the worse for it, the lack of experiences and hardships resulting in a lack of character and grit. (Though there are some, not to name names but you certainly are thinking of the same outrageous examples that I am, who are so oblivious and narcissistic that they don’t even see their gaping deficits, and some of them even manage to pull off the con on other people, at least for a while, maybe long enough for them to live comfortably and smugly, to be judged only after death where their names will become synonymous with slime, but they don’t care because at that point they will literally be slime.)

My usual technique of illustrating with vaguely related photos. This time: old stuff. Re the top photo–stones/milestones; falling apart; clearly has had work done and not for the better.

Even wealth and connections can’t stop the milestones, though they may push them down the road. After having a child about as late as possible (I loved children but I rejected society’s horrific treatment of mothers until I just gave up and did my best in spite of it), I am often the oldest one in any group of my kid’s friends, sometimes the age of the grandparents and not the parents. For a while, this wasn’t too noticeable. My hair didn’t turn gray early and though I can’t claim any athletic ability whatsoever other than flexibility I do exercise in order to maintain some semblance of being “in shape.” My goals are not to hurt my back for lack of arm and leg strength and not to be out of breath going up stairs or walking around. The bar is low.

The grays are arriving, though, and so are the wrinkles. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. Who is that person? When did THAT happen?

A long time ago, a good 20 years at least, I was driving my niece to see my grandmother, her great-grandmother. She had eagle eyes, and, in the direct manner of five-year-olds, told me “Your hands are old.” It was like a knife to my heart (I probably shouldn’t say this because she is the sweetest person and would never hurt a fly, but she never said it to be hurtful. It was just a statement of fact. Five years old.) She should see those hands now. They are the least of my problems, though they are problems, no longer doing exactly what I want them to do, going numb and not dancing across my keyboard as before. I make more mistakes and I see them less.

What a beauty!

I pass by the schools in town and wade through the miasma of hormones in the guise of young humans. Their bodies are changing, becoming unrecognizable to them. The metamorphosis of adolescence. That’s the exciting one. Exhilarating. The change that’s about new possibilities. I am realizing that the high bridge of middle age, where the road is fairly flat and smooth and changes are incremental, is over and I’ve started the descent on the other side. Not exciting. Frightening. The change that’s about things once easy that are harder or too hard to do at all. I could do cartwheels until a couple of years ago, well past age 50. No more. This is the time of no more.

My mother warned me. She had macular degeneration and the world was out of focus, often in double image, tricking her when she wanted to put her finger on something and aimed for the wrong image. Cruel life. She told me that inside, where she couldn’t see the worn-out body she was in, in her head she was still a kid, still able to skip and run. She showed me a photo of her when she was a girl and told me that she still thought of herself, at 90, as the kid in the photo. I watch the gymnasts and dancers at the sports complex and can feel the muscle memory ghosts telling me, that’s how it would feel, how it used to feel. But my knees and ankles and hips crack and crunch and I know I will never again fly through the air. At least not on purpose.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining. It’s just observations, like when my glass is empty or the laundry has blown off the line or the dust on the piano has gotten thick enough to write in. When did that happen? It was all fine just a minute ago. Or so it seems.

I do want to remind myself, and you, too, if you are so inclined, that the little old ladies who are so slow and unstable were once strong and in charge and doing cartwheels and probably wondering why their bodies aren’t operating the way they used to. Constantly stepping into the void because eyes no longer focus correctly. It throws a person off. Makes one hesitate. Take no chances. Bones take longer to heal. At the same, they become invisible. Pushed to the side. Cut in front of. No more niceties. I tell my kid that old people (male or female) and anybody with babies and small children have right of way. You go around them.

A 1997 Bordeaux! And it was divine.

We have a nice circle of friends here, with ages ranging from mid-40s to mid-70s. We lost one recently, a loss that tears at my heart, and I fear we are going to lose another. His wife was on death’s door decades ago and was cured of cancer with a then-experimental bone-marrow treatment. Now she is nursing him, but there are no miracle cures in sight to undo a lifetime of dessert and another glass of wine. I used to think it was odd that my parents turned to the obituaries first thing when they got the newspaper, but now I increasingly hear of old friends and beloved colleagues when they have died. Graduations, then weddings, then births. Now deaths. Our village friend is so weak he can barely speak, but he laboriously informs me of the projects he has under way, that he will pick up once he’s out of the hospital with new heart-related accessories. I admire his tenacity to life.

My father also held on to life. Even when he was bed-ridden, even when he was fed with a tube to his stomach (a hospice doctor strenuously told us, his children, that we should overrule his decision to get the tube, but he was lucid, and who were we to tell him his time was up? He didn’t want to be kept alive artificially, but he imagined “artificial,” I think, as being unconscious. He no more wanted to be kept alive than he wanted to be hurried into dying). He was in the most amazing nursing home, for which I will forever be thankful. As one of the few residents who wasn’t suffering from dementia and who had a wicked wit, his room was a hangout for the staff. Kelly, the hospice nurse/angel would do her paperwork in his room. He relished his spoonfuls of ice cream, all that he could enjoy.

Such a cute food truck! And it’s old! But well-cared-for.

I talked to someone recently (not French) who had “work” done. Previously, she had dyed her hair too dark, and gravity was fiercely tugging at her jowls. Now she was blonde, with smooth skin and no jowls at all. But her eyelids did a strange pleat, the result of her face having been yanked up with the subtlety of hiking up one’s socks. I suppose it was for business. She was a “founder.” Women are judged on a curve, and not a curve in their favor.

Among my friends, everybody is pretty well-maintained, though our ill friend paid less heed, whereas another friend (also male) of exactly the same age (76) is in top form and goes for daylong hikes in the mountains. Having “work” done is one thing; staying in shape is another. The hiking buff’s wife has always been in my village gym classes–it’s how I met them–and I ran into them at the beach last year; she puts Helen Mirren to shame in a bikini.

To stay in shape, I go to gym classes. I do the village classes, which were my go-to for information about everything in the early years. (Need a dentist? A pediatrician? Swim classes? Gym class was my own personal Yelp.) I did yoga with a friend, but when she moved I never found anyone as good. I am doing the village yoga class but it doesn’t hold a candle (S, I miss you!!!). I discovered Pilates, which is a lot like yoga without the spiritual stuff, and so I loved it. The teacher is gorgeous, a cross between Mariska Hartigay and Sandra Bullock, though younger than both. Maybe a little Jennifer Garner thrown in. Anyway, she is in awesome shape yet old enough to be a true inspiration. She never stops talking about how she wants to have plastic surgery. I thought French women didn’t do plastic surgery. But I started to note that the ones who struggle most with aging are those who used to make traffic stop, heads turn or rooms go quiet when they entered. Those of us who were neither beautiful nor ugly seem to accept the slings and arrows of aging with less angst. Finally: the joys of meh.

Less angst doesn’t mean no angst. It is damn disappointing when you push on the accelerator of your far-from-new car and all it does is cough-cough-putt-putt-putt up a hill. The same goes for one’s body. WTF!!!! When did this happen? Where do I lodge a complaint with the celestial authorities that this is a major disappointment in service levels? What about CX? Is there a warranty?

Retro or timeless? Either way, I like it.

So: aging. Is it an issue in your life? Personally or in the form of dealing with it in another generation? What are your observations?

I found this draft from 2019 and it made me smile. The friend I was so worried about is better and back to work on a history of the region. However, S the yoga teacher and dear friend, has died. I would have bet she would outlive all of us. As much as the Carnivore disdained vegetarians and exercisers, he adored S, who was both of those things. He told me once that he appreciated sitting next to her at dinner parties because she made him feel calm. I thought that was beautiful.


25 thoughts on “Milestones

  1. Just wanted to let you know I appreciated this. It all resonates with me (age 74). Fitness maintenance has always been part of my routine but lately it seems to be a full time job! And watching what I eat as « food is our first medicine » according to our French tour guide.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a sweet thing for the Carnivore to have said about your friend S.

    It is always such a pleasurable thing to check my email and see that you’ve published something new. Today’s post was, of course, no exception, and resonated more than usual. I’m in my early sixties and still quite active. I’m also acutely aware of the changes I’ve already experienced. The wrinkled and sun-blotched hands, the metabolism that once burned like a furnace, but now seems little more than faint embers. I suppose our bodies are meant to eventually betray us. I only hope that my mind stays sharp until the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely re the mind. I guess it can be a blessing for the person who loses their mind–they don’t know what’s happening, though that must have its own terrifying stage. But it’s really painful for the person’s loved ones.


  3. Absolutely resonates. I haven’t been to the gym since Covid, but I haven’t completely sagged. Happily (sometimes exhaustingly) I wound up with a second wave of grandchildren, now six of them five and under. Having them come stay with us or renting an Airbnb to be a helper with newborn twins: this keeps me running. I’ve come to love aging, not just from being around young things but because of my own mellowness, a brand new character trait. And because of time to cook thoughtfully, to paint, to walk, to have slow conversations with people I love.

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  4. Milestones…like the first time you look in the mirror and see your mother, yikes! Life is so random. Aging can totally disregard our years of eating well (or not!) and exercising.

    I do some pretty strenuous hiking 5 days per week but can’t lose a pound. There are clothes taking up room in my closet that I know I will never squeeze into, ever again.

    I’m personally not a fan of cosmetic surgery. No sense in inflicting unnecessary pain. And yet, getting my ear lobes bobbed so I can wear dangly earrings again is appealing.

    We are all dealing with aging. It becomes an issue when we stare at it in the mirror or our health starts to decline. For me the struggle is to accept aging as gracefully as possible, and appreciate every day that I remain healthy.

    Thoughtful piece, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Bonnie, you made me laugh out loud. Seeing our mother, indeed!
      As for not being able to lose weight, it seems that exercise doesn’t do it, only eating less, but there are few skinny people who aren’t also active/sporty. It’s a must, if not for aesthetics, then for strength. It is excruciating to cut back enough to lose weight, and our bodies fight it all the way, turning down the metabolism to keep the weight on. Good luck to you. On my side, I am just trying to keep the weight from going up further. 😦


  5. I like this article. I’m in the mid-70s and can relate, somewhat. I’ve always been active, and in fact, managed to get through a full pregnancy when I was 39. Our daughter was born a week before my 40th birthday and what a joy she has been. She got me into yoga class and taking put roller skating again, and even adopting a semi=vegetarian diet. She is now married and living an hour away.
    I’m still walking doing a different yoga, since I blew out my left knee, and don’t want surgery. The knee has healed and I’m walking normally again. My hair is gray, my attitude must like my Dad’s – don’t mess with me, I’m old and opinionated…lol. Thankfully, I have a great husband, even if he is snarky sometimes, many friends who have the same attitude or even a different attitudes (these help you experience a thought, book, etc. that you didn’t think of before), but I guess that’s what you get from being raised by parents who grew up during the Depression and WWII and Korean Wars. Life, as Dad would say, is what you make it. You choose to be happy, sad, whatever, and never, ever, give up learning something new…a language, an art/craft, a new way to walk…it doesn’t keep your body young, but it does keep the mind going.
    Keep going, and definitely, keep writing. I enjoy seeing a new piece in the email box. Take care of yourself, enjoy your son, family, and friends…they all help keep us going. Sorry. for being so long winded…it’s all about attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ageing is something I hadn’t given much thought to, but recently it’s been one bereavement after another and that’s made more aware of my age. I also find that inside my head I’m still in my early twenties, but my body just doesn’t keep up with that kid anymore… Where has time gone? Happy years, lots of laughter and only a few tears – I feel blessed!

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  7. I feel your pain! I turned 79 a couple of weeks ago, and a year ago felt my hair was white enough to stop dyeing it; love it now, its very sparkly! I’m in quite good health, no medicines, no injuries, still quite active, so I feel very fortunate. It is, however, daunting to realize that the numbers are only getting larger. I don’t remember ever doing cartwheels, I’m quite sure I can’t now. I do note that the older I get the bigger and more powerful tools I need!
    bonnie in provence

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  8. Yes, I always thought that beautiful women must find aging harder than those of us plainer sisters. But, as you say, less angst doesn’t mean no angst! What little bit of attractive I did have has now fallen out and left me with a shining scalp of very thin hair, still with some colour but what good is that! And teeth that have lost their enamel so whiteners are not advised…sigh…my only decent attributes no longer easing my vanity. I guess pride goes with everything else as one ages.
    Enjoy your posts very much. Thank you for including such interesting photos with each one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even makeup is dangerous. My mom asked me once to show her how to put on makeup, and I had to warn her that if she couldn’t see straight, maybe makeup was riskier than no makeup. Plus, it manages to work into every wrinkle and make it stand out more, rather than the opposite.
      We have to focus on a bella figura–like the Italian matrons who aren’t model-thin and not all of whom even once were beautiful, but they dress well for their body types and age, they have good posture, they project confidence.


      1. I always wore little or no makeup, and haven’t worn any for very many years, which turns out to have been a good move. I use skin care products of course, but not the other stuff that is supposed to make you glamorous!
        bonnie in provence

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved your message and I hope you don’t keep feeling gloomy about ageing.
    I find the great thing about ageing that your eyesight to see clear nearby fades: thus you don’t see the wrinkles in the face of the one you love and are about to hug. Neither does he or she 🙂
    From the outside I’m a sportive grandma with red lips and hardly any grey hair. It runs in our family. My mother died at 98 with dark hair. Inside I’m still somewhere between 28 and 35 (with red lips!) I cherish all I still can do (and do) although I dread that my knees are starting to protest, telling me that it is true that I will be 70 in August.

    Keep up the good spirit, Catherine.
    Hugs from the lowlands.

    Liked by 1 person

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