Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on getting older, & the generation gap

I've been thinking a lot about age & getting older lately. Dh turned 50 this year, and I am 46. I'll be 47 on my next birthday, two months from now. We've been married 22 years. Our two nephews are now 15 & 19 and both 6'1" (and still growing!). And next year will be 10 years since my pregnancy and the loss of our daughter (which is starting to weigh heavily on my mind). All markers of time marching on relentlessly. I know I don't look 46 (so I've been told), but lately, I've been feeling, if not 46, then certainly a lot older than I once did.

My great-grandmother was 47 when her last child was born in 1923 -- my one remaining great-aunt, my grandmother's baby sister, who is now 84. Great-Grandma was and likely still is the oldest person ever to give birth in the hospital in that little town. (I'm not even sure they do deliveries there these days -- and certainly not high-risk pregnancies of older women, which is what it would be considered these days.) I used to joke hopefully and say that I had time on my side, maybe I had inherited Great-Grandma's genes. Great-Grandma, though, had a much better track record than me (five other children previously). No fertility drugs around back in 1923!! And to be honest, I wouldn't want to be pregnant now at my age. Even if I was guaranteed a healthy baby -- 3 a.m. feedings & diaper changes, chasing after a toddler when I'm 50 and dealing with a teenager in my 60s -- yikes!!

To put things in another perspective -- I'm the same age right now as my grandmother was when I was born. And I'm older now than my mother was when I got married (I was 24, she was 44). Both my sister & I were out of the house and off to university before she turned 40. That too gives me pause.

I think I started feeling old(er) right around the same time I got pregnant, when I was 37. That was when we had the first of a string of interns join us in the office for a year-long stint. Most of the interns were in their early 20s and fresh out of college, eager to get a foot in the door & some experience on their resume. To paraphrase the Matthew McConaghey character in "Dazed & Confused," I kept getting older, the interns all stayed around 22 or 24, or so it seemed.

I remember telling one of these interns, who joined us at the turn of the millennium, about how when I first joined the department (at age 25 myself), one of my colleagues had been an elite swimmer. Just before my arrival, he had brought Victor Davis, a gold medallist at the 1984 Olympics and one of Canada's all-time great swimmers (not to mention an extremely good looking guy), to one of the staff parties. (Months later, the girls were still drooling as they told me about it.) I told this to our new intern, and she looked at me blankly and said, "Who is Victor Davis?" I couldn't believe she didn't know who Victor Davis was. Then I realized that 1984 had been a good 16 years earlier and she was probably barely in grade school at the time.

I've worked in the same place for 21 years now, and these moments have gotten more and more frequent. Gradually, the under-30 set has come to dominate. They all cluster together, chatting & giggling, talking about their condos & the best place to buy shoes, and the bars they visited the night before, and go out drinking together after work. I like them, and I think they like me, but there is a generational gap there, for sure.

(Dh had his own moment several years back, when the Eagles first reunited for their "Hell Freezes Over" tour. When the tour came to town, several of his colleagues at work were going and asked if he had tickets. "No," he said, "but I saw them on their Hotel California tour in 1978." Whereupon one of the 20-somethings in his office looked at him, open-mouthed, and gasped, "How old ARE you??" lol)

A couple of weeks back, we had cake to celebrate one girl's birthday. She was turning 28. Her mother is one year older than me (!!). As we ate, the young girls all giggled and talked about the pressure they're under from their parents to start producing grandchildren (even though few of them have boyfriends), and all of their friends and cousins who are having babies right now. I winced as they chattered & giggled away (they think they're under pressure NOW??). I'm sure none of them know my history -- there are perhaps half a dozen people left in the office who were around at the time I lost my daughter and might remember what happened. If these younger officemates think about it at all, they probably assume I don't have children because I don't want them. They've never asked, and I don't tell.

I think I started feeling the generation gap at work even more keenly this past year. Last December (2006), my co-worker took early retirement at age 59, after 16 years of working together. This woman (also childless) was my best friend at the office, my coffee break companion & confidante. She was there for me in the dark days after the stillbirth of my daughter and through the years of infertility treatment that followed, and to say that I've missed her this past year is an understatement. Meanwhile, she is enjoying her well-deserved retirement hugely, keeping active with all sort of classes and projects and outings. I think I'm jealous!

I feel like my life is in a sort of in-between phase right now. I don't have kids, so I find it difficult to relate when I'm with friends & family members who talk non-stop about kid-related stuff. I enjoy my work, to a point, but I work to live, I've never lived to work, and it's been a tough year for many reasons (her absence being one of them). People in the infertile community sometimes ask me what there is in life to look forward to, if I don't have kids, and my answer is immediate: "Retirement!!" (lol) (And hopefully an early one!)

For now, I know we have to keep working, if only to ensure we save enough for a comfortable retirement -- no kids around to "take care" of us, so we'd better make sure we can do it ourselves. But work interferes so much with all the other things I'd like to be doing with my time. I just wish I could skip over the next 10-15 years or so and get to the good stuff right away. ; )

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post! It really rings true for me. My dh turns 50 in September and I'm sliding toward 45 in some six months. I feel young and like you get mistaken for being younger than I am, but there are bigger and bigger distances between me and the 20-somethings. It's hard to believe I could be their mother. Ugh. Where did that time go?

    And how hard to think that I'm approaching my grandmother's age when I was born...thank God for hair dye and wrinkle creams!