Today is my birthday. It's a "zero" birthday -- you know, when you leap into a new decade. Except, as the number in front of the zero gets larger, there is less leaping and more dragging and kicking.
A lot has happened to me over the decades, but I don't realize how much time has actually passed until I look in the mirror. Who the hell is that woman looking back at me? Peg Bracken wrote On Getting Old for the First Time. When she was the keynote speaker at the Willamette Writers Conference several years ago, she kept us in stitches talking about the old woman who had moved in with her unannounced. She caught glimpses of the woman in the mirror, reflected in glass, and so forth. I can identify.
I've never had the usual life experiences that mark the passage of time for most people. Marriage, first home, children, grandchildren, etc. Most folks recollect past years by events in their children's lives or family activities. "That was the year Junior started school," or "That was the summer we went to Yellowstone," for example. For me, the years just kind of blend together with few outstanding events.
So I am startled when other people's children send out graduation and/or wedding announcements. Or when I search a photograph for a relation or longtime friend and realize he's the chunky bald guy or she's the white-haired lady. Huh?!
I hear words coming out of my mouth that are direct quotes from my parents and grandparents. I recognize machines, utensils, tools and so forth that young people today have never heard of. Worse yet, I've actually used the antiquated items! I've lived long enough to see the futuristic paraphernalia of Star Trek become passe. Remember the data cards used by Kirk, Spock, and the crew? Recall the PC diskette? If you've ever used a floppy disk, then you too are vintage!
So I enter my current decade in shock and awe. It's been the era of cute, white-haired grandmas who bake and crochet, or tinkering grandpas who can fix anything. It's the decade when retired couples hit the road with their camper or Airstream.
But here I am riding my horse, chasing my dog, and writing fiction. If I can avoid mirrors, and ignore the occasional muscle or joint twinge, I can almost forget that another decade has passed.