A suitcase worth of memories key to growing old with grace

BethCooperHowelTHE older I become, the more I realise how incredibly lucky I am to be getting older at all. While Marilyn Monroe may have left us at the height of her beauty and fame, I’d guess she’d have leapt at the chance to swap her celebrity funeral for a few more decades of life – even with the inevitable, mandatory slide into wrinkles and stiff bones. I am still in the thick of growing children and my career. There are a dozen bucket list wishes to tick and I make fevered plans at night, mapping out what I’ll do after 45 and 50 and then some.

Trouble is, I may not get there at all. I’ve never, during the course of journalistic research, found a definitive theory on immortality. The hubby assures me that within a few years, we could not only be living forever – but turning the clock back with sophisticated cellular regeneration technology.

They say, he says, that you’ll be able to choose your age – but keep your accumulated wisdom and experience. But even science can’t make that picture fit; I don’t fancy being a sober, qualified 18-year-old this week and a wine-sopped 50-year-old tomorrow, no matter how interesting the experiment might sound. Getting older and not dying might be nice. But that’s another topic. Getting older and realising how awesome it is – now that’s something tangible which anyone under the age of 30 won’t get until they’re old enough to get it. As I am now.

Today, I spent a memorable morning with a dear friend I’ve known for nearly 15 years. She’s 17 years older than me and honestly looks a decade younger than the last time I saw her.

Our paths diverged, as paths do, and we don’t see each other often – but what I realised, after seeing Gail today, is that there’s only one immortality worth worrying about: and that’s our connection to people we love.

This is why getting older is such a blessing – in the most unsentimental way. The longer you know someone and the less you see them, the more you realise how phenomenal true friendship is when you finally reunite – and it feels like yesterday.

I should have been working – had warned Gail that I could spare an hour between school drop-off and a deadline. But more than two hours later, there was still so much left to say.

I consider what it’ll be like when we’re in our 50s and 60s respectively and honestly? Even better with a few more decades under our belts – how much more to discuss about life experiences, health moans, travel anecdotes and gossip about the people we knew.

Gail’s mom, Isabell – gracious, smart and over 80 – is one of those people I so want to be when I’m 80 and wondering where my years went. Or my mom, or Penny, or any of these dozens of whip-ass women who are no longer 50, or 60 or 70 and have a suitcase worth of wisdom and wonderment to share.

Trust me, young guns – you’ll get this one day, and soon. The worst way to waste youth is to spend it wishing you were better, younger, richer or more; because when you’re older, looking back, it’ll all be good anyway; as long as you had fun.

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