I can remember when fifty seemed like such a big number. When fifty cents was an eye-popping amount, and could get me into a movie, buy popcorn, a drink, and a candy bar, and still have a few cents left over. When fifty dollars was such a huge amount of money that it was nearly two weeks’ pay, and later when it was what we spent on groceries for nearly a month. When fifty was an age that meant life was over, and certainly no fun.
And here I am.
Now fifty cents gets tossed into the change cup. Fifty dollars is dinner out. And fifty years seems like I’m just getting started.
Ten years ago I lost several friends in a short amount of time, and they were all between 50-54. I think then is when fifty years began to feel like not nearly enough time, and this odd certainty that fifty was all I was ever going to get began to worm its way into my brain. ..the same brain that had grown its own little alien in the form of a tumor that turned out to be essentially just a giant zit, but still…that didn’t help.
Fifty became a quiet obsession.
I knew my expectations were illogical and there was no foundation for the gnawing feeling (and yes, that’s why it worked its way into It’s Not About the Cookies) that fifty would be it for me. Too many friends not living to see 55, the medical issues I’ve been pushing against (aside from the tumor,) and the fact that I was so seriously out of shape… I thought I would hit 50, but never 51.
Then things happened that had nothing to do with my age or my quirky phobias. Nothing to do with tumors or thyroids or wicked, violent thirst. Walking things began happening. Things that got me off my asterisk and outside. Things that turned my quiet obsession about age and what the numbers might mean into distance and what the miles might mean.
Steps that began with uncertainty over the miles ahead turned into the foot-slapping of spiffy running shoes onto pavement with confidence.
Training that started with trepidation ended in completing all but a couple miles of last year’s 60 mile SGK.
A year and a half ago sixty was the fifty of my youth; a number almost too big to comprehend, certainly a distance almost frightening to complete.
Until I did.
There’s something to be said for self-fulfilling prophecy; if you think something long enough, you begin to believe it. If you believe it, you do things to make it happen. Fifty may have been my end game, but for a comment left on Max’s blog last year by the Grate Mister Jeter Harris, Hizself, wherein he extended an invitation to join his Mom’s team that was participating in the San Francisco 3 Day.
Yes, I know, I talk about that whole walking thing a lot. You think I blog about it a lot? ask my friend Sandy, who gets to hear about it 134.876% more than you do.
But here’s the thing…I think it might have saved my life.
So maybe I wasn’t going to drop dead at fifty. But if I had a plethora of years following fifty, they weren’t stacking up to be good ones. They were years that looked to be colored by increasing pain. They were years that were likely going to be limited by my decreasing physical abilities, and to be honest, I was too afraid of the pain to push against it very hard.
Pain always pushes back, and frequently results in doing the ugly cry.
I looked at people using walkers and made note of the spiffiest ones, because deep down I knew I’d need one. I paid attention to wheelchairs, because I figured that someday I would need one better than the one I already own.
Yeah. The one I already own.
The one I own because in the past the pain has been bad enough that walking was not happening.
When Jeter’s Mom plopped him down at the keyboard and had him offer me a place on her team (oh be quiet, he did too type it) there’s no way she could have known the snowball effect that would have for me. I don’t think anyone had peeked into that part of my psyche, except perhaps for the Spouse Thingy, and I don’t think I’d ever told even him that I was pretty sure that fifty was it for me. From the first steps out the door in my brand new running shoes to the moment when Blogger Babes 4 Boobies took their team picture at the finish line last year to a simple 5 mile walk in the mall yesterday…it’s all taken me away from that certainty that I wouldn’t see 51 to the certainty that I will.
It’s taken me away from the walker, away from the wheelchair, and away from the thought that if I did manage to get past 50, I’d be using both of those. The wheelchair is buried deep in the garage, because frankly, I doubt I’ll need it unless I do something stupid and break a leg.
If I die before I turn 51…chances are it will be from some driver turning left in front of me on the bike, or because I don’t pay attention and walk out into traffic, or most likely, because I die of embarrassment because of something stupid I’ve done.
It won’t be because of my health or the sorry shape I'm in.
I’ve been pretty lucky in life. I have an awesome Spouse Thingy and a wonderful son, and our family—immediate and extended—is pretty spiffy. My two guys support me like crazy, even when it is crazy; I don’t know too many men who would chew off chunks of their days off to wander around just so that their wives could get some miles under her feet. Men who wouldn’t complain about the cost of multiple pairs of running shoes and spendy magic socks and all the clothing experimented with while searching for perfection in sweat comfort.
I have some pretty wickedly incredible friends, too. Frustrating asterisks of friends who donate expensive things so that I can make fundraising fun. Friends who crack open their wallets to support the effort, even when they really can’t afford it. Friends who don’t complain when I talk endlessly about my training and the walk itself. Friends who do something that was probably a simple thing that turned out to be a major turning point in my life.
Ten years ago, when I was silently begging for a sign, I got the stereotypical fortune cookie: You will live a long and happy life.
It was a sign I needed, but one that didn’t take root deep enough, because I had that nagging fifty-is-it feeling.
Until I didn’t.
It’s been a gradual thing over the last year, but I can pinpoint when it began, and it began with a feline Yankees fan leaving a comment on Max’s blog.
You saved my life.
And here I am, celebrating my birthday, turning an age that once seemed impossible because it was so old, and them seemed terrifying because it was so final.
Happy birthday to me.