In less than two weeks I’ll celebrate my 60th birthday. Just for giggles, I perused some 60th birthday cards and, well, the outlook suddenly seems sort of grim. The creepiest of all pictured an empty deck chair on an emptier beach and contained these heartwarming words: “A sunrise is beautiful but so is a sunset. /For turning 60 today don’t harbor any regret. / The autumn of your life will be so serene./ You will be the happiest that you have ever been.”
Another card characterized the recipient as being “blessedly reliable, dependably good and predictably pleasant …You are a gift of peace and tranquility.”
I feel as though I should be sitting in a scooter chair with a blanket over my lap as I read these cards. Or maybe I’ll need someone to read them to me. Doing it myself might require too much effort.
Actually, embarking on my seventh decade does come with some new challenges. The first is to never tell people how I actually feel when they casually inquire, “How are you today?”
After a scary three months of nonstop medical problems, I see now why so many older people talk on and on at length about their aches and pains. There are so darn many of them and they take up all your time. If you’re not lying around hurting, you’re sitting in a doctor’s office trying to figure out why you hurt and what to do about it. Even with all the advances in modern medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.
Thankfully, after X-rays and CT scans and pills upon more pills, I’m back to my usual cranky, creaky self.
Although I don’t feel particularly ancient, I am suddenly aware that the clock is ticking. I was recently talking with my cousin Michael, who is one year my senior, about the wonderful cherries that are so plentiful this year. He remarked that he might plant a cherry tree. Then he added ruefully, “Of course, the best time to plant it would have been 20 years ago.”
It reminded me of the Greek proverb, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Growing older has led to the inevitable empty family nest. Perhaps because there’s not as much demand for my nurturing skills at home, I’m gradually morphing into the archetype of a crazy cat lady. I mean that in the most positive of ways. I’ve always had admiration for people who work to care for lost, homeless and feral animals.
In 1965, for an elementary school essay on “My Hometown Hero,” I interviewed Miss Bessie Bickers, founder of what is now the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. Actually, it was more the other way around. Miss Bessie quizzed me at length about my household pets and my care of them. She extracted a promise that I would never turn my back on an animal in need or knowingly cause harm to one.
I’ve done my best to keep that vow and now I find myself the caretaker of a small feral cat colony that lives behind my workplace.
I’ve discovered that there’s a significant feral cat support community, people who are equally enthusiastic about neutering/spaying, vaccinating and then caring for these independent creatures. I remind myself of my promise to Miss Bessie when I find myself making daily trips to feed and check on what I call the Sterile Ferals.
One cat who so far has been too slick for the trap is our Gray Mama. Three weeks ago she gave birth to four kittens. She flattered me by moving them to a corner near the back door, which I took as a signal that she trusted me to help keep her babies safe. All that nearly met a tragic end when I walked outside to find a landscaper weed eating within mere feet of the kittens’ nest. That’s when the crazy cat lady emerged, nearly tackling the landscaper. For an old broad, I can move fast when I have to.
So, turning 60 isn’t so bad. There are people and causes that I care passionately about.
There’s lots to do and still some time to do it. First on my list is to buy Cousin Michael a cherry tree.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.