FALL WELL

Boomers and Teens Hit the Segways!

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, war broke out. When I crossed mine, I merely landed flat on my back, upside down under a clump of trees. The Segway I had been riding just a few seconds earlier continued motoring backwards, back down the hill, off the side of the road and only stopped because it was hopelessly ensnarled in bushes.

I laid still for a moment, just long enough to realize two things: I was not hurt and the mosquitoes found my bare legs and arms irresistibly delicious. Just as I realized the latter, my husband began yelling, “Don’t move! Stay right there!” No way. I gathered myself upright, madly brushed leaves, twigs and bugs away and grinned. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “Nothing’s broken. I fell really, really well.”

In fact, during the 4 seconds or so that I knew for certain that I was going to fall, I aimed for the dirt, heaved myself off backwards and to the right, while shoving the 100 lb machine away from me and to the left. And, when I hit the ground, I rolled to absorb the impact, just like they taught me in skydiving school 40 years ago!! Boy, was I proud of myself.

The Segway tour had been my idea. What better way to keep up with two teenagers than to have equal horsepower? Our guide had given us a brief lesson on how to ride the machines before we started. “Lean forward to go forward and lean gently back to stop.” The idea was to stay balanced so that you never had to come to a complete stop. Seemed easy enough and at first it was. We whipped around corners, sped down sidewalks, across streets, and giddily waved at passersby. Then we hit the park. The paths began to turn sharply and I lost a bit of steam and fell behind. Then came that long, steep hill.

Now I often advise my aging boomers to, “try something new,” “get out of your comfort zone,” and “stay active.” But after this week’s experience, let me add this: “If you’re gonna fall–aim for something soft,” “When you hit–roll” and “When it’s over–be grateful if nothing is broken.”

 

P. S. While researching Segways for this blog, I learned that I am not the only one to have taken a tumble.  Presidents Obama and Bush have both fallen, and the owner of Segway was killed a few years ago when the one he was riding plummeted off of a cliff. 

YOU’RE OLD. I’M NOT.

 

 

 

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In the middle of a heated discussion on gender equality this evening, my 21 year-old, exasperated with my stance, suddenly said, “Well, you’re in a state of cognitive decline. I’m not.” I thought about that for a moment but said nothing. Technically, she is right. The interesting counterpoint, however, is that I STILL have 40 years experience on her and that is a HUGE difference—in MY favor.

Granted my neurons don’t ‘fire’ as quickly as they used to but I have a whole lot more embers to choose from than a kid who has yet to graduate from college and live on her own yet. That alone is a game changer. She’s never paid rent let alone a utility bill. Her first one will be a shocker: I won’t be running around after her turning off lights and raising the AC temp! And a box of raspberries in the fridge will no longer be a quick snack waiting to be scarfed up. It will someday be for her, what it is now for me: a luxury.

Isn’t it strange how ‘old’ and ‘grown up’ we feel when we are young and how ‘young’ we think we are even when our hair is gray? Apparently idealism isn’t just the bastion of the young. A recent AARP study found that 85% of people over 50 don’t think they are ‘old’ yet and half of them believe that their peers are clearly ‘older.’ Translation: You’re old. I’m not. My favorite finding is that almost half those over 70 think it’s fine to “make jokes about old people.” Only 25% of 40 year-old’s agree. Translation: age also makes you less uptight.

Which brings me back to tonight. I love that my daughter has strong opinions and voices them. I admire her passion and zeal. I also know that one day both will dissipate with time and experience. 40 years from now, I hope that she, too, will quietly smile if some youngster refers to her ‘cognitive decline’. She will know better by then of course, because she is my daughter!

**Helen Hudson speaks around the country on Aging and all things Alzheimer’s.  Visit her website at http://www.helen-hudson.com for upcoming events.

YOU HAVE AN AMAZING BODY

amazing bodies“You have an amazing body,” a complete stranger said to me last night as I sat in our local bookstore listening to an author give a reading. Okay, I did have a moment of schoolgirl giddiness to hear an opening line I haven’t heard since I was in my 20’s. However, my response was curt: “Thank you,” I replied sounding strangely like a PE instructor, “I work at it every, single day.” “Well, it sure shows,” he gushed, as he stared long and hard at the full length of my anatomy.

As I sat there trying to keep my attention on the speaker, I wondered what on earth about me had caused him to say that. I wasn’t wearing anything provocative, simply Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt. Truth is, I didn’t even have an ‘amazing body’ in my 20’s. I had then what I do now: a small-headed, long-necked, flat-chested, short-waisted, knock-kneed and pigeon-toed one. The only difference is that all of it has now shifted a bit south and gone surreptitiously slack.

Of course, it has had 40 years to get the way and I have put it through labyrinthian gyrations in the process. I suppose it began with those awkward gymnastic stunts in high school like doing the splits on the balance beam. Then there were hours of wild dancing and limbo contests in night clubs. This would later segue into dirt races on my motorcycle and culminate with a series of sky diving escapades in college. Oops. I almost forgot the broken collarbone in that car crash, a series of sprained ankles and now arthritic knees which doctors say I still need to replace.

After two pregnancies and 6 solid years of nursing things toned down a bit. Although there was a spate of 6-mile a day jogging, ridiculous step-classes done to pumping music and that time I was thrown off a gym treadmill backwards and stuck against a wall while the moving belt continued to lacerate my knees. I’m sure that I am leaving something out here but you get the picture.

These days I can still do a cartwheel, handstands against a wall, hot yoga, swim and play doubles with gals my age—but not all in one day! Come to think of it, I DO have an amazing body! It still gets me around. I’m still breathing and above all, I am grateful to still be in it!!!

 

FIVE THINGS YOU DON’T DO OVER 50

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1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick when the cop pulls you over for speeding. (You’re desperately trying to remember where you put the registration).
2. Cut in line. Anywhere at any time. (At your age it just looks bad).
3. Laugh out loud at something on your cell phone while intimately seated in the company of others at a restaurant. (The light’s too dim to read your screen.)
4. Imagine your life 50 years from now. (You know you won’t be here.)
5. Take nude selfies on your Snapchat. (You don’t have a Snapchat.)

Five things you might do:

1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick after you get a citation. (You’re stalling so the cop will pull away first.)
2. Move ahead in line when the youngster in front of you is distracted by their cell phone. (If they do notice, you’re old enough to pretend you didn’t see them.)
3. Laugh out loud when someone else does while they are reading something on their cell phone. (If they notice that you laughed, too, they’ll wonder how you saw their message from that far away).
4. Remember moments of your life over the last 50 years. (Ah. . .there are so many.)
5. Sign up for a Snapchat. (If only to remind your kids you’re still HERE!)

 

‘OLD LOOKING’ YOUNG

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Striding into my sixth decade, I have finally accepted the fact that I am no longer 21. Looking in the mirror has not convinced me because I still see my younger self in that reflection. I can do the math: my own daughter just turned 21. That wasn’t the clincher either. Even my husband insists that, “the obvious eludes (me).” So why, have I only come to this realization now? Well, if other people and Mother Nature weren’t constantly reminding me, I might still be oblivious. This week alone, these things happened:

1. the bag boy asked if I “needed help” carrying out the tiny sack that held only grapes and yogurt.
2. Looked at a photo of a trip I took last summer and recognized everyone in it except for ‘that woman with the gray hair.’ Then I put on my glasses.
3. In Pilates, the girl next to me admired my splits and asked for help after class. As we stood facing the mirror, I noticed that I might easily pass for her grandmother.
4. Realized that Menopause is already a distant memory.
5. Beamed to see that my muscles are strong from daily workouts, but frustrated that my skin flat-out refuses to hold on tight! It sags sleepily from my thighs and swings like small hammocks when I wave my arms.
6. Laughed REALLY hard when some dope said that “60 is the new 40.”
7. Realized that my husband and I don’t try to get our kids out of the house so we can have ‘alone’ time anymore. Instead, we strategize how we can see them more.
8. Calculated how many years the dog and I have left together. Wondered also, if she goes first, will I outlive another one?
9. Noticed that my AARP card is wrinkled.
10. Figured out that the “Lifetime Membership,” our gym offers is actually a lousy deal.

However, just as I accept the fact that I’m not a kid anymore, I feel like one again. I’m in Starbucks with my daughter when suddenly, the cute, long-haired barista who often serves me, turns to her and says: “Hey. I hope it’s cool with you that I’m dating your mom.” She goes wide-eyed. I look at him in utter disbelief. He, however, keeps such a straight face that for one brief moment. . .the obvious eludes me!

MAYhem IN JUNE

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A girl named, “June” almost cleaned my clock during a three hour match on the tennis courts this afternoon. As the temperature soared to 90 degrees, she sent me left, then right, then shot up a high lob that I lost in the sun. Her serve, always precise and with a punch, aced me in the opening game. The first set ended quickly at 6-3 in June’s favor. At the changeover, she sat and rested on the bench, sweetly sipping her water. I paced, nervously bouncing the ball on my racket and taking quick swigs from my Starbucks.

What I haven’t told you is that we were playing doubles in the Senior league. Doubles. But our only real opponent was that tall, strong girl with the short haircut and big tooth grin. My partner and I changed positions hoping for an advantage. What we received instead was more of June’s arsenal. Suddenly she was sending my serve down the alley with her deft, inside-out, one-handed backhand or whacking low volleys at my partner at the net.  There were times I felt she was reading my mind as she moved into just the right position before I even connected with the ball.  I was unnerved.

At 4-4 in the 2nd set, I started giving her back what she was giving us: a myriad of shots that defied predictability. She never hit the same shot twice in a row. Never. So, during her next service, I purposely gave her three, different returns: a drop shot, a backhand deep down the middle, then a high lob cross court. While we did win that game, what amazed me was that at Love-Forty, she still served my partner a wicked angle and fought hard through an almost five minute point. We barely closed a 7-5 win in the 2nd set.

By the 3rd set, June was getting tired and it began to show. I made myself not look at her. Forced myself to stop admiring her game and start playing mine. I sent every ball that I could to her partner. More than three hours later, drenched in sweat, we finally prevailed. As June extended her hand in congratulations, I ignored it and instead threw both of my arms around her and hugged hard. It was a hug of both relief and sheer admiration. You see, June is just shy of 80. I want to be her when I grow up but I have a long way to go.

 

 

EMBRACE OR ERASE

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Exactly two weeks ago, my beloved and favorite uncle sat down and hand wrote me a lovely two-page letter. He included, as he often did, an article of interest from the local paper. Then he mailed it, drove to a deserted parking lot, put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger. And while I wonder if he aimed perfectly at his heart, I also wonder why he would never want to see his granddaughter’s face, taste the sweetness of a fresh-picked strawberry or even hear my voice on the phone again.

Aging is as hard as growing up once was. There is no vade mecum to tell you how. You stumble, fall and brush yourself off ad infinitum. You just have to keep going and learn how to take the curves. That mindset was especially hard for my uncle who had always been an avid and highly competitive athlete. Too many botched hip and shoulder surgeries later, he was a shuffling shell of himself and he knew it. Plastic surgeons are skilled at raising our faces, but it is our minds that need the real ‘lift.’  In the end, that is something that only we can do.

The only real way to prepare a ‘face for the faces that you meet’ is to strengthen your inner thoughts. Bench press your brain when your limbs fail you. Pull up your focus on the beauty of today. T. S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month,” but I choose to find it the loveliest—even now–as spring begins to unfold after a too, long winter. Dogwood flowers burst into bloom from the backyard and daffodils shake their heads in the breeze out front. It is hard to find spring when the mind is mired in darkness. We are our thoughts. Ultimately, they become our actions. May you make them ones you want to embrace, not erase.