I felt foolish. I tried to not take her remark too “severely” into my heart. It wouldn’t have been good to myself given the rigorous day ahead. This poised and beautiful woman ardently said that she wasn’t fifty years old! “Oh, I am sorry,” I apologized. “I must have heard wrong. You have five children? Oh, my goodness! I had no idea. How old are you, anyway?” I must have overheard someone else’s conversation the night before saying that both she and her husband were turning fifty this year and that’s why her husband had traveled with her for the weekend. I actually didn’t feel as bad as I might have in the past.

As we walked to the back porch of the school she said that she was only forty-seven! I thought to myself, “Well, Becky, you weren’t too far off!” It reminded me of how big turning fifty is. I remember a bit of the pending agony before I turned fifty. And now, fifty seems quite young and long ago. As we rode quietly up the elevator, I breathed in the goodness of no longer feeling afraid of turning fifty and not owning shame over this small incident.

The following week my husband and I decided to spend a couple of days with our daughter and her family. We packed a shared suitcase and Annie’s birthday presents and made the 11:35 ferry. We looked forward to spending time with our grandsons, Van and Cole. I hadn’t been at their home since the first week of school. Where had the time gone?

The rain gloriously stopped once we crossed the floating bridge to Mercer Island. While eating lunch together the clouds began to disperse! Without any discussion, we put on our coats to take a walk. It’s what we do in the Northwest, especially if there is hope of a “sun break.”

We walked briskly behind the boys who were riding their bikes. Our conversation with our daughter and her husband flowed easily after not having been together since Christmas. Somehow, once again, I mistakenly mentioned a “miscalculation” of the amount of years. “We haven’t lived in our home eight years!” Annie said with annoyance.  I felt foolish and the sting of being wrong without meaning to came again. I am trying to not react harshly towards myself these days. It is new for me to not live with demeaning disdain for any minor infraction. “Oh, how many years have you lived here?” I asked.  My daughter replied quickly, “Six years!”

Once again, I quietly kept walking and thought to myself, “That wasn’t such a horrific mistake. It’s alright, Becky.” I calmly breathed in grace upon my mistake. It’s new for me to let these corrections slide off my back.

I actually wonder why it’s taken me so long to live with freedom in being wrong.

Is aging a fear for my daughter, as well as, the forty-seven-year-old woman? Fear that if they had lived in their home for eight years instead of six years that would mean that she was two years older than she is? Is it so fearful to have a birthday these days? Is this how we are living? Is this life in America today?

Van and Cole are seven and nine years old. I cannot help but wonder when they will not want to tell anyone that they are older than they would like to be. When did that begin for me? I started counting children instead of years to avoid the pain. Dan had a rough time turning thirty. His mother never told her age to anyone! She lied to her partner saying she was fifty-nine instead of sixty-nine! Whatever age seems right, I think the given age is my only choice. I don’t like what I am seeing, but as I said, I am breathing in more grace with every breath.

Aging is a death before a death. If we stayed the same, I would keep caring about my appearance just as much as I cared about it when I was young. But, alas, I am becoming a bit like The Velveteen Rabbit with one lost eye, fur rubbed off, but more loved and more real.

Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of almost 40 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs