Do you remember where you were for New Year’s Eve, Y2K? Then good for you! Maybe you could help me remember where I was that evening. Because a whole decade has passed in the interim, and suddenly, my memory is not what it used to be.
In order to find out the answer to my Y2K mystery, I turned to my slightly younger and therefore perhaps more sharp-witted husband, Brett. He was of no help.
“Was that the year we went to San Francisco?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” he shrugged, returning to his newspaper. It was the morning of December 31st and I was recalling New Year’s Eves of yore.
“We saw Titanic out there. Was Titanic released in 1999?”
“Don’t know,” Brett shrugged. “Perhaps.”
I quickly went over the computer and checked on imdb.com. “No, Titanic came out in 1997.”
“Huh.” Brett replied. “Interesting.”
“Fine. You don’t care.”
“Not really, no.” Then he looked up from the paper and smiled reassuringly. “We were probably at Jodi and Evan’s, like we are every year.”
“Impossible. We didn’t even meet them until New Year’s of 2000.”
“Oh. Well then, there goes that theory.”
“I think I’m losing my mind.” I challenged, my voice rising slightly. “You don’t care that I’m losing my mind!” You see, I just finished reading Still Alice and now fight off troublesome thoughts of early-onset Alzheimer’s whenever I cannot recall a chunk of my own life’s information or when the words I need hover just beyond my mind’s reach.
Brett put down the paper and came around the kitchen island to give me a hug. “You’re not losing your mind, Julie. You’re just turning 40.”
There you have it.
2010 is the year I turn 40, everyone. I’m coming out. Loud and proud. And somewhat stunned.
“How did this happen to me?” My 97-year old grandmother asked me recently, staring into my wrinkled eyes with her own wrinkled eyes. “How did I become someone with a 40-year-old granddaughter?”
“I like totally don’t know, Nanny!”
Could time just slow down already? It was scaring my poor old grandmother.
Looking back, there were some neon yellow signs along the road of life telling me that I might be more than just older than I was last year. These were signs that I might actually be aging. This last year of the decade, the one that signified my upcoming movement from my late thirties into my early 40’s, was particularly telling.
It began with a phone call to my father last spring. He’s an ophthalmologist who always tells me not to worry when I call to describe an ailment – any and all ailments -- to him. Like, “Dad, my elbow hurts when I bend it.” His response? You guessed it: “Then don’t bend it.” Other treatments of his include ice packs, cold compresses, sleep, and time. As in, “just give it some time. You’ll be fine.” In short, he’s not an alarmist. So, when I realized that in order to write articles on my computer and actually see the words written on the screen, I had to squint or use 18-point font, I called my dad for some reassurance.
“I can’t see,” I told him.
He required clarification of my sweeping overgeneralization. “You mean, you can’t see where? When you drive at night at try to read street signs?” He asked.
“Yup. Can’t see.”
“How about when you look at the computer?”
“What about reading a book or magazine?”
“Can’t see, can’t see, can’t see!”
“So come into my office and I’ll examine your eyes. And, Jules, do everyone a favor and take the train, please!”
And that’s how I ended up with one set of progressive lenses and umpteen pairs of reading glasses. I never really adjusted to reading with the progressives, you see, so now I have a pair of colorful reading glasses in every room in the house and in every pocketbook I carry.
I’m one of those ladies now. One of those, “Wait, just let me get out my glasses…I know they are in here somewhere…oh, where oh where did I leave them…ah!” ladies. When I saw the Meryl Streep movie “It’s Complicated” last week, I laughed at all the jokes about aging and thought, wow, Meryl’s character has some really snazzy purple reading glasses…I wonder where she got them? (A shout-out to all the hip, older women out there: La Dentelliere at home has some great, Streepworthy readers!)
When I accidentally left my glasses at home this past summer and found myself with a book and a beach but no way to read, I called my mom in a panic. “I need reading sunglasses!” I cried, desperately. “Do such things exist? Cheap and quick!” She relayed the magic cure: Eyebobs. Eyebobs are a miraculous invention for the mildly reading handicapable among us. They are over-the-counter, moderately priced, moderately chic sunglasses with a magnifying reading lens built in on the bottom. I even wore them in the Hamptons.
Yes, the Hamptons.
Because here’s one amazing part of growing older: I didn’t care what anyone thought of me in my slightly uncool, certainly not Chloe sunglasses.
Okay, maybe I cared a little bit, but being able to see was finally more important than being seen.
In the past decade, I’ve learned how to shift focus. True, my memory might not be what it was, and my eyes have become a little blurry, a little more mellow in their intensity. But I’m starting to see that these are all metaphorically good things. Because if I cannot remember what our argument was about, then I’ll be hard pressed to stay mad at you for very long, Brett. And if I can’t see perfectly clearly, then I cannot judge the extent to which my wrinkled forehead is truly, horribly, in-need-of-injections, wrinkled.
I know I’m not the first to write about aging in this way; Nora Ephron did a lovely, comic job of feeling bad about her neck. I’m just the first one to write about me aging in this way.
Welcome to my new column for 2010: Julie, on the verge of turning 40.
I’m interested and excited to see where this topic will lead me. I hope you are, too.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year, however many candles may top this year’s cake.