That Ain\’t The Floorboards Creakin\’ (And Other Signs of Maturity)

By Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis                           

The sudden, loud creak startled me. I was alone in the house, save for my dog and 2 cats. The dog lying prone on the floor, feet running, chasing some elusive creature in her dreams I suppose. One cat happily ensconced on the back of the recliner and the other on the floor attending to her nightly ablutions. They hadn\’t moved or even lifted a head to investigate the sound.

Surely they heard it. Not much escapes an animal\’s keen senses, especially their hearing. Oh well, I consoled myself. It\’s probably just the floorboards creaking in our old nineteenth century farmhouse. But there! There it is again. I hear it with almost every move. Strangely there is still no reaction from the dog and cats. And it definitely is not the floorboards.

As I reach down to pick up Miss Kitty, who has now finished her grooming ritual, I hear it again. This time the painful truth slaps me upside my head. This is no ordinary creaking sound. These are not floorboards creaking. Truth be known, the noise isn\’t even that loud.

But to a woman who has just discovered her newly creaking knee joints, it is a thunderbolt! It screams OLD! And getting old for a woman in our youth-obsessed culture is not something to be taken lightly.

I can no longer quickly dismiss the increasing lack of flexibility as just a temporary lapse in my exercise routine. Okay, my episodic exercise routine. The gradual loss of strength is due to not eating enough protein…or am I eating too much protein? Maybe too many carbs…maybe not enough carbs? Perhaps too much fat in my diet. No wait, it\’s the lack of fat. It has to be any one of a number of causes because surely it can\’t be…old age!

No, no I won\’t allow this. I will not go gently into that good night. I will fight this aging process tooth and tong. Tomorrow I\’ll read all the ads for the latest age-defying products and then armed with my newfound knowledge I\’ll buy every product that claims to turn back the clock, even if it\’s only for a few hours. After all, in those few hours I might just look fabulous…and young…well younger anyway.

I will positively lose those last five pounds. Well maybe it\’s 10 pounds, 15 to 20 at the very most, depending on what time of the day it is and how far to the left I can lean on the scale without falling off.

I\’ll update my hair-do in whatever the latest youthful fashion is, my wardrobe, my shoes, my makeup. With losing those extra 30 or 40 pounds I\’m sure I can pull off the belly shirt and low rise jeans look. Can\’t I? Well high rise jeans and a peasant blouse but jeans for sure. After all they are the hallmark of the young and hip and yep that\’s me…young and hip. Well, maybe hippy would be more accurate, but young at heart.

I am YOUNG! Can\’t you hear me? Stop ignoring me. I\’m only 30…in my mind, in my heart, in the way I think, in the way I drool over Brad Pitt and Hugh Jackman, and Matthew McConaughey. I\’m just like you Miss Young and Perfect Figure and Perfect Skin and Perfect Hair and Teeth With Your Whole Life Ahead of You.

In the work place you hesitate to even interview me for this job that I know I\’m just perfect for. You\’re reluctant to hire me because I\’m of a certain age. You wonder how many productive working years I have left so why bother training me.

Well I\’m not going to work for a short while and then go out on maternity leave as hilarious a concept as that might be! I\’m not going to flit from job to job because I\’m anxious to spread my wings and figure out what it is that I want to do with my life. Been there, done that.

Strangely, you don\’t weigh these options when one of your counterparts applies for a job. You assume that youth means longevity in the work place. It doesn\’t! Oddly enough, you might get more working years out of a mature woman who\’s nearing the end of her working career. You\’ll get loyalty and appreciation, much like the older woman who appreciates the attentions of a younger man.

I\’m a loving, caring woman who has value. I also have something that you don\’t have and you can\’t get it by being young. It\’s lifetime experiences, a whole bunch of them. They\’re what they\’ve made me today. Old and wrinkled and even creaky for sure!

But my thoughts aren\’t old, they\’re not wrinkled and they definitely are not creaky. I leave those things to my exterior self, the only part of me that you see. You won\’t take the time to look deep into these aging eyes. Well, okay maybe you can\’t see them because they\’re hooded with some excess skin but play along with me here.

Look at me, really look at me, and get to know me. You\’ll be surprised at what you\’ll see. You\’ll see a beautiful mature woman with many years of love and yes, even sorrow, etched on her face. You\’ll see the reflections of a distant brilliant flame of youth that at one time captivated more than one young man. You\’ll see a woman who has lived a full life yet still has so much life left to live…if only youth will not step in her way and slam the door shut on her.

You\’ll see a woman who knows the meaning of good manners and decorum. You will see courage because, as Bette Davis purportedly said, “Old Age ain\’t for sissies.”

You will see so much in these eyes but mostly, you will see you!

You, in thirty years, fighting to keep your place in the sun. Trying not to be knocked down by some young girl who hasn\’t learned the value of aging, the many, many lessons to be learned, experiences to be savored, lovers to regret, opportunities lost, career paths not chosen, serendipitous moments that take your breath away.

You haven’t suffered the exasperation yet of trying to read the dark gray and black buttons on the black remote control.  What bright-eyed kid genius designed that; someone with 20/20 vision that’s who. The same person who thinks they’re being cute when they call you “young lady” – as if we don’t own a mirror and don’t realize we’re not young, we’re old – or the clerk who winks at you and asks you if you’re old enough to buy that bottle of wine or six pack of beer. Really? You think this flatters me?

Okay so maybe I’m a bit crotchety in my so-called Golden Years. I’ll forgive you your tactless attempt at humor if you’ll overlook my crankiness with your well-intentioned comments that fall far short of the mark.

I never fully appreciated the adage Youth is wasted on the young! I do now. Don\’t you waste your youth. But please don\’t knock me down in your enthusiasm to live every moment of it. There is enough space here for all of us, enough opportunities. We\’re women – we\’re born nurturers. Let\’s nurture and nourish each other. Let us gain respect for each other, no matter how old or young we are. Let\’s go through this journey together: You, learning and savoring life from my years of experience and me, recapturing some of my youth in your exuberant company.

I want to continue to embrace life. I want to stand in the street like Mary Tyler Moore, huge smile on my face, theme song playing, throwing my beret up in the air as I look to the sky. Of course doing that at my age will probably cause me to lose my balance and go crashing into the street but what the heck. That\’s another life experience! So let’s enjoy the ride, side by side, sister to sister, shoulder to shoulder and celebrate our womanhood in harmony!

Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis is a devoted wife and mother. Married to her husband Jack, for 42 years and the loving mom of their first born son, Dale. Sheryl and Jack suffered the devastating loss of their youngest son, Scott Graeme McGinnis, RN on December 1, 2002, at the age of 31, to a multiple drug overdose.

A retired medical transcriptionist and former radio DJ and voice over artist for TV, Sheryl now uses her voice to speak out about addiction, trying to prevent children from using drugs.  She is always available for speaking engagements. Check out Sheryl\’s website and feel free to communicate with her via her email address.

March 20, 2013