This week we have a group of friends here at the Eastern Oregon cabin. It’s a group that has been gathering for a summer week for nearly 20 years now. The last 11 we’ve hosted here, missing one year for Covid. Last night there was a wonderful joint birthday party for Marcia Regnier and me. We’re both turning 75 this week.
We had a 50’s, 60’s and 70’s playlist going, plus a dinner menu straight out of our childhoods: quartered iceberg lettuce with 1,000 island dressing, jello salad with celery and sliced olives, “ambrosia” (made with little marshmallows and maraschino cherries), tuna surprise with cornflake crust, meatloaf, and white dinner rolls. Super fun. Lots of sharing of memories triggered by different songs on the play-list.
Marcia and I were invited to offer reflections on turning 75. I enjoyed hers very much. She spoke of a grandmother who had provided a great role-model for her own aging. Now, Marcia is a grandmother for her own five lucky grandchildren.
Hearing her speak, I thought of Erik Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Man (sic),” and his last developmental tasks. While my memory of Erikson’s stages was a little off, my friend, Susan McFadden, provided the following helpful summary:
Erikson’s 7th stage was generativity v. stagnation/self-absorption. Did you ever know people so bound up in their own fears of aging that they stagnated, or, as psychologists sometimes say today, they “languished”? They refuse to accept that they are aging, see no point in nurturing younger folks (even grandchildren), and aren’t open to trying to make the world a better place for future generations.
The 8th stage was integrity v. despair/disgust. Integrity here means accepting the “one and only life” you’ve had without bitterness and despair over lost opportunities, unresolved relational issues, etc., and disgust about the “narcissistic insults of old age.”
I tried to sum up where I am at as I turn 75 by saying, “Nothing left to prove, but not done yet.” I am grateful for so much, my wife and family, good friends, health and meaningful ways to engage in life, including writing these blogs and interacting with you my readers.
Earlier that day four of us had hiked 10 miles in the Wallowas on the Hurricane Creek Trail. I am very fortunate to be making such a hike and doing it in the company of dear friends as I turn 75. On this hike I was looking for a good camping spot for an overnight next week with my sons and grandkids.
Both Marcia and I feel pretty happy to be the age we are. It is an age that seems to come with a certain amount of relaxed interest in life and acceptance of ourselves. As I said, “Nothing left to prove . . .” Neither of us appear to feel any need to dye our hair, get Botox or face-lifts, take handfuls of supplements or do any of the things that promise to fight off aging. It is what it is. We are who we are. And grateful for it.
And for both us a big part of the “not done yet” is witnessing and sharing in our grandchildren’s lives and growth. We agreed that each one of them seems to have arrived in the world as the distinctive person they are. As I heard a wise person say once, “There’s nature and there’s nurture; and then there’s the child.”
I think we also agreed that you “see” your grandchildren in ways that you didn’t with your own children. There’s a distance that allows that. Plus you’re not in the heat of life, career, pulled in many different ways.
It’s a good life!