A Gift for a 75th Birthday

birthday giftAging has been on my mind lately—passing a 75th birthday can do that to a person—though I recognize it’s not a hot topic out there in the world. Nonetheless, it’s a reality we will all deal with one day . . . if we’re lucky.

I am entering an era of last things.

I just purchased what I’ve told my partner and my family will probably be my last car. They laugh at me a bit. But the car is new, of a sturdy make, fulfills every transportation need I can imagine having, and comes with more bells and whistles than are entirely useful. Also, I usually drive my cars for ten years, and I am skeptical that another new car when I’m 85 will be high on my list . . . unless by then the ones that drive themselves are available and I can afford such a thing.

I’ve also just returned from a three-week trip to New Zealand and Australia. My daughter and I were visiting two former exchange students that were part of our family many years ago, and we loved rediscovering these women in their adult lives in the midst of their families, seeing their homes, exploring their worlds. But I was conscious with every step that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me. No doubt my daughter will return one day, but I’m certain I won’t.

I have been working for what is beginning to feel like too long on a young-adult novel. Blue-Eyed Wolf is the biggest challenge I have taken on in my career. It is longer and more complex than anything else I have written. (The truth is I have been setting it aside as much as I’ve been working on it, the reasons varying from last winter’s broken arm to having contracted other work. But I’m ready to return to it now.) I am very conscious as I work that it is unlikely I’ll ever take on such a challenge again. There are days when I ask myself whether my brain—and my expertise—are even up to what I’ve embarked on. But mostly I enjoy discovering new dimensions of my own craft, of my own psyche, and am content to know it’s unlikely I’ll want to do anything like it again. Other, less challenging work, of course. But not anything of this scope or complexity.

And how do I feel about the lastness of car, of travel, of taking on almost-overwhelming writing projects? The truth?

Content. Deeply content.

My mother, who died at 97, used to say of being old, “But you don’t feel any different!” And I agree with her. The child you were, the young adult, the in-charge-of-the-world mom with kids and pets and career are still tucked away inside this too obviously crumbling shell. These former selves are there, intact, and none expects what they see when they look into the mirror.

And yet in another way—as was often the case—I don’t agree with my mother at all. I do feel entirely different than any of those younger selves.

Mostly, I feel better than I ever have. Not physically. Those challenges mount. But I am more accepting of myself, which means I’m more accepting of others. That doesn’t suggest this deep introvert can now walk into any social situation and know I belong there. Far from it. But it means that I rarely challenge my own right to exist.

It also means I am accepting of the life that stretches out behind me—monumental mistakes and profound loss included—and am content with this moment. This moment of sun- sparkled snow just beyond my study window. Of a small dog sleeping beneath my desk. Of this breath filling my lungs.

And this one.

And this one, too.

I wake each morning knowing I have little need, if any, to prove anything . . . to myself or to the world.

That is the true gift of a 75th birthday!

And a great place to be as I enter a New Year.

A blessed New Year to all my readers!

35 thoughts on “A Gift for a 75th Birthday

  1. Yvonne Pearson

    Thank you for this post, Marion. The subject is much on my mind, in particular, integrating the acceptance of aging with growing and continuing creativity. I think the only way to do this is living in the present moment. You have expressed that beautifully, as always. I am so happy to have your blog to read.

    Yvonne

    Reply
  2. Joanne Toft

    Happy Birthday and a Happy New Year. This was a lovely piece. I am a bit younger but just retired from teaching. This discussion of lasts has entered our conversation as well. At some points it is hard to think about and at other times it is very freeing. It is good to let go of some things and look forward. Enjoy the new year!

    Reply
  3. Michele Ivy Davis

    Thank you for a wonderful and thoughtful piece. I’m approaching your age and can identify with your words. There are so many things we don’t need to worry about anymore (Will the new roof last 25 years? It doesn’t matter.), so many things we can do without guilt (Let’s travel while we still can), and as Sarah said, a greater calm and a greater acceptance. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Cheryl Johnson

    It was such a pleasure to find your page. I will enjoy reading your blogs very much. At 59,I am hoping I can always accept the changes I face physically and perhaps mentally with grace. All my best to you on your continuing journey.

    Reply
  5. Lauren Stringer

    Thank you for this birthday gift, Marion. Your personal wisdom is good for us all.

    And Happy Birthday! 75 years is something to behold and celebrate!

    Reply
  6. Lori

    I enjoyed your piece; I arose at 0456 today and wrote a two page essay on the ending of a tough year, but acceptance of it as part of who I am becoming.Thank you and halt me year.
    I am left wondering why the photo of your son Pete at 19; that happens to be my son’s age. I want to know about Pete.
    Happy Birthday!

    Reply
    1. Marion Dane Bauer

      Thanks for asking, Lori. That was a mistake, and the photo posted with the blog has been changed. That photo was intended for another blog to be posted later. It was taken when Peter was 19 and is my favorite picture of him. He died seven years ago at age 42.

      I’m glad for a chance to explain to someone, even though most folks probably won’t see this.

      Reply
  7. Lori

    I enjoyed your piece; I arise at 0456 today and wrote a two page Ray on the ending of a tough year, but assurance of it as part of who I am becoming.Thank you and halt me year.
    I am left wondering why the photo of your son Pete at 19; that happens to be my son’s age. I want to know about Pete.

    Reply
  8. miriamglassmanMiriam Glassman

    Happy Birthday, dear Marion, and many thanks for all the gifts you continually give others in your reflections on age, life, and writing. Reading your words often makes me feel like I’m on a walk with someone who is no rush, and who continually stops to examine and reflect on something of interest with her full attention and appreciation. Thank you for all these inspiring walks,–and to many more!

    Reply
  9. Adi

    Lovely, Marion. And, for me, still hoping to get to my 75th birthday, it’s a good reminder that we never know when our era of last things will be.

    Reply
  10. Sarah Lamstein

    So beautiful, Marion. Thank you. I’m not too far behind you in age and know what you feel – a greater calm, a greater acceptance.

    Reply

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