How old are your parents? Do you know? Can you tell me the number quickly without thinking about it? Do you even care? Perhaps you, like me, only remember their birthdays and birthdates, and then have to recalculate every time you need to know. Hmmmm, let’s see, she was born in, uh huh, yup, and then she hasn’t had her birthday yet this year, so that would make her… Got it! I would feel almost bad about not knowing how old my parents are, except these days I can barely remember my own age!
Age was very important, once upon a time. Age determined, more or less, your grade in school and your relationship to the other children. There were things you got at certain ages, so you were counting down with great care the years until you could drive, or vote, or drink, or run for president. But then, somewhere just after 30, age suddenly didn’t seem to matter anymore. I had gotten through all of the good stuff, and now the only things I had to look forward to were colonoscopies and senior discounts at Dunkin’ Donuts.
I must also admit that there is a chance I stopped remembering my age because I prefer to think of myself as just a tad younger than I maybe currently am. I had an argument with the mirror the other day, because it kept insisting to my eyes that I looked one way, while my brain was adamant that I was far thinner and more attractive. I like my brain’s version better than my eyes’ version. So if I conveniently forget to keep adding numbers to my age, what does it matter? 31, 39, they’re close enough! Age is approximate now!
But actually, I really do know my age, if I think about it for a second. The question is, do my children know it? I mentioned at the table the other day that I was feeling a little old, and my daughter stopped me. “Daddy, you’re not old.” Oh no? Well then what did she think I was? “You’re medium,” she replied. And it is true. I am kind of medium. I am about halfway done.
My daughter does know my age, by the way. She is very smart and good at math. Numbers are not a problem for her. I’m sure my son has no idea how old I am, but he is only 5 and can’t count that high anyway. By the time he can count to my age, I will be older and he will have to learn more numbers again. It doesn’t matter. My age is meaningless to them. More important to them will someday be the years in which I grew up, the decades and events that shaped me, the music I made them listen to in the car, and the values that solidified inside of me as a product of my time. Some of them I will pass on. Some of them they will outgrow. Someday they will play a song for their children, and it will be one that I played for them first. Probably “Whoomp! There It Is!” or “Baby Got Back.” Someday they will wonder why I think the way I do, so outdated and archaic, and then they will smile knowingly and remember when I grew up, as if that explains everything about me. They will take pieces of me with them throughout their entire lives, good and bad. But they still won’t know how old I am.