New Math

I have always been a numbers person. I guess I am actually OCD about numbers. I have always been pretty good with numbers.

When I didn’t follow the path into theatre as a young person, my next love was math so I became a banker and bookkeeper. I still count people on stage, how many people are in the choir loft on Sunday morning, and add things up constantly in my head. (Like I said- OCD.)

If I wake up in the night, I can’t go back to sleep until I look at the clock and figure how long I have until I have to get up. And if a specific date is mentioned, I have to figure out how long ago or how far in the future it is before moving on.

Age is of interest to me, so when someone old is on TV and their age is mentioned I figure how long until I am that age and what year that will be.

I do think running numbers in my head, while weird and annoying, also keeps my brain working, so there’s that.

Although I am interested in age and aging, I didn’t think I was too concerned about getting old. I am concerned about staying healthy and of sound mind, but being old is alright by me. I am hoping to be flamboyant and outrageous when I get old.

I had a friend who was quite a bit older than me, who told me that  she had not freaked out when she turned the big 50, it was just another year to her. But then when she was about to turn a random age like 53, it hit her that she was really getting old. It really hit her hard and she was surprised by that.

When I turned 50 I thought about my friend and realized that I did not feel any different just because I had hit that age. As the years went by I never hit a number that threw me into a funk about aging.

When I turned 60 I was so busy that it was 8 months later before my friends and I were able to schedule the one thing I had requested for my birthday- a drink at the new rooftop bar in town. (Of course, by the time we got there it was no longer new and other rooftop bars had sprung up around town. It was still a fun night!)

Time has passed and another birthday is right around the corner and I realized something that kind of shocked me. Although I have always been open with how old I am, I was considering just saying “in my 60’s” from here on out. But that isn’t what surprised me.

Since my mother died a couple of years ago, I have been very aware of how old she was when she left us and how many years I had until I was that same age. On a TV show the other day I heard someone say that best case scenario 50 was the middle and if you were past 50, you were definitely on the downhill side. Last week I saw a play that delved into age and wellness, among other topics, and again I found myself adding and subtracting years in my head.

And then it hit me.

All of the figuring I had been doing in my head about how long until I was my mom’s age, or how far past halfway I was, or how my age lined up with the characters in the play, I was doing as if I was still only 50. Somewhere in my brain, I had just stopped counting and all of the years since were not adding up!

I have never lied about my age, I have never pretended to be younger, (although Tim’s habit of adding a year with the start of a new calendar year instead of waiting until his birthday in July has caused me to think I was older sometimes) and I have no idea why I was using 50 as my age in my silent figuring.

It was then that I realized maybe this random year would be the year I flip out about getting older. Maybe my calm attitude about the prospects I see ahead has finally cleared the way for panic.

My friends and I often say that we just aren’t ready to quit fighting- to quit dying our hair or keeping up with trends, to quit trying to learn new computer tricks or quit keeping up with pop culture. I still want to stay current and away from elastic waistbands and sensible shoes.

At some point I guess we will give up trying and when that happens, I am not sure what will become of me. I imagine the math in my head will subside because I will no longer care or want to know how many years younger I am than the movie star who just died, because by then I might not be younger!

I hope that I will sprint past this birthday with grace and that I am so busy it is 8 months before we can schedule a celebration. I hope I am like the little lady I saw on TV yesterday.

She is 103 and still running races and setting records. Her life has been tough, her husband died young and left her to raise 4 children. Two of her sons were murdered and at that point she decided to give up, but her daughter, a track and field coach, talked her into trying running at the age of 67. So she did.

When interviewed, she said her secret to long life was that she tried to eat healthy and had oats for breakfast every morning. The interviewer said that they had heard that she also liked a cocktail and the woman smiled and said that yes, she enjoyed a Hennessy but never on an empty stomach. Then with a mischievous smirk she said that she always made sure that she had had her breakfast before she drank.

My hope is that at 103, if I am still alive, I can put together a sentence of any kind, much less a joke. I hope that I am still moving and that sometimes I still enjoy a glass of wine and cake.

I guess maybe the way to get there is to stay active and to stop thinking about how long I have until I am old. I guess the best thing I can do is ignore the numbers and concentrate on the things I can do to stay creative and involved. I guess the smartest thing for me to do is celebrate everyday and quit worrying about the next birthday.

Now please excuse me- my brain wants to figure out how many years I have until I am 103.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.