The Unexpected

Visible wisdom. Yeah, that’s it.

London gave my my first grey hairs. Or the flight to London did. Or something. All I know is, at age 24 and a half, I arrived at the house I would be staying in the first three months of what was to turn into over five years, looked in the mirror, and there they were. There were four of them. Knowing better, and also because of being a contrarian, I did not pull them out. It was tempting, but . . . everybody freaks out about grey hair. Therefore, I wouldn’t.

Since then, the number has been steadily growing and as recently as just before the wedding, I discovered I was starting to get a concentration of them at the right and left of the top of my forehead. If my hair were black, it would be very Addams Family. I decided I liked it. Still, it came as something of a shock to find what can best be described as a stripe of grey/white in my hair when I pulled the front back this morning.

I guess my hair is trying to tell me something.

I knew, when I said yes to my Paul, that there would be some adjustments. You don’t go from being single and either dating or not dating (mostly not dating) for your entire adult life, and then suddenly promise yourself to someone for the rest of it and move in with him, and not expect to face some adjustments. There are some. Like–I have discovered my inner neatnik. I didn’t even know I had an inner neatnik. Compared to Mom, I still don’t. But let’s just say I’m acting a whole lot more domestic than I used to. All that was more or less to be expected, though. It’s going fine. But let’s be honest. They’re still adjustments. This, however, is the part I kind of forgot to think about:

My Paul is a youthful some-years-older-than-I. I guess I might have thought about that in terms of the potentially-having-to-take-care-of-him-when-he’s-old kind of thing. (On the other hand, I have a cancer history, so the chances of one of us taking care of the other are probably pretty even.) What I didn’t consider was the relative ages of the extended family.

Here’s what I mean:

TheBro and Sister-in-Lu have, as you know, two young and very beautiful children. (No, I’m not biased.) Paul, as one of the younger three of seven siblings, has bunches of nieces and nephews (some of whom I’ve still not met)–and they’re all adults. (They’re not bad-looking either, but it’s kind of weird to talk about them like that when they’re adults.) One of the nephews is, apparently, older than I am. On Sunday we went to the birthday party of one niece’s son. He’s a year younger than Smiley-Guy. I have a grand-nephew. My 40th birthday isn’t until July, guys. Can we slow this down a bit?

While I was processing this thought, my Paul and a few of his siblings were chattering away and following the sun’s movement on the porch. One of his brothers has bought a condo in their mother’s retirement community in the South. That didn’t really strike me as so alarming until they all started talking about it together–about retiring, and where they were planning on moving, and driving around in golf carts. I feel relatively safe because my Paul has enough plans for our house that I feel like we’re probably settled here for a while. But still! My nieces and nephews are my age, and my siblings are retiring? When did this happen? I was the oldest! I started imagining relocating to a community of white-haired people I don’t know when I’m only a little older than my Paul is now. I think I had got so used to being single that when I thought ahead to retirement–well, I didn’t expect ever to be able to retire, for one thing, but I guess I visualised turning into one of those snarky-yet-warm, independent New Englanders who lives on their own until someone finds them dead in their house a week after the fact.

Wait a second. That’s not such a cheery thought either.

Arizona with my Paul when I’m still too young to move there might not be such a bad idea. Maybe my hair knows the future, and is just trying to help me to catch up.

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11 thoughts on “The Unexpected

  1. Grey hair – God’s way of saying memento mori (bad pun).

    Retirement communities sound kind of dull – as you know we don’t quite have them here, unless you count Lytham or large parts of Brighton and the like. The thought of living somewhere like that fills me with horror – perhaps I am already (I’m 17 months older than you) raging against the dying of the light – I certainly have a lot more to complain about on the hair front. And perhaps as a Christian I shouldn’t like that poem as much as I do, but then again I think perhaps I should: death in scripture is an enemy, a defeated enemy for sure, but an enemy nonetheless. And retirement, to me, seems, I’m quoting but can’t remember who I’m quoting, but the plush ante-room to death. I like instead the image of the aging Paul racing around the world until chains prevent him or the aged Socrates still busy corrupting the youth of Athens (teaching them to think) in his seventieth year until he too was forcibily prevented from doing so further.

    I’m not sure this ramble actually has a point, but if it does, besides exposing my own insecurities about growing older, maybe it is that society’s view of retirement is not necessarily a particularly biblical one. Or maybe I just want to say don’t give up on the idea of being snarky (yet warm) – after all, people with no edge are just dull.

    • I like it. I resonate with what you say about the apostle Paul. But, being contrarian and snarky, I also have to say:

      Having watched my grandmothers and a great uncle, and having sort of “settled” in a place here, too, I’d say I’ve realised everything is a mission field.

      As for death–the enemy but, as you say, defeated, so it doesn’t really seem like it’s something to resist. It’s only temporary . . .

      • yes, I guess it’s not so much the fact of dying that I think we should resist (wouldn’t do much good anyway) but any idea of retirement that seems like a stopping of useful and exciting living before we die, but you answer that by pointing out, quite rightly, that everywhere is a mission field. I just hope that the mission field of my later years (should God grant me long life) is light on the golf carts – grew up next to a golf course, never saw the point – but if, besides opportunities for excitement and mission, there happened to be a nice trout river nearby…

  2. Funny post, Jenn! Well, Dad and I shudder at the thought of retirement communities–and we should probably be thinking about this. I like the British way better…there’s Christine, over 80, living in her great old house, and having a garden planted for the Queen’s Jubilee. Maybe I should move that direction….?

    • No–but I still THINK I am. Then someone always comes along and bursts my bubble by calling me a brunette . . . But you’re right–at present, and in some lighting or at some distances, it looks like I have blonde highlights. Part of why our engagement photos turned out so great. 🙂

      Thanks, Donna!

  3. I’m with your mom…if you take all the elderly wise people and put them together, how are the young ones ever going to have examples to follow….Other countries revere (I know I can’t spell) their elderly…

    • “Revere” was spelled correctly. 🙂

      And yeah–the young typically DON’T have examples to follow, over here. Except the celebrity ones, not much older, who do a great job botching things up in public. (Instead of in private like the rest of us.)

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