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Column: Aging gracefully has more than one awkward moment

There are some things in life I wish I'd known about ahead of time; things they don't teach you in school and that never come up in those awkward conversations with your parents, where neither of you could look the other in the eye and you both wish the floor would open and swallow you.

From childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, I've found comfort and support among my peers: We had no idea what we were doing, but at least we had each other.

Every age brings new and greater challenges, some of which, at the time, seem insurmountable. In kindergarten, we had the missing green crayon. At age 8, were defending our lunch money from bullies. At 13, the seventh-graders locked us in our lockers; at 14 we did the same thing to the sixth-graders, because we'd (mostly) forgotten how it felt.

Eventually, we could look back at our teen years and realize that fretting over being asked to the prom probably wasn't such a big deal after all. (I wasn't; and it was.) And by 30, we felt confident in our abilities to handle life. Oh, how innocent we were.

Here's a surprise: Time does not stand still, it picks up speed with each passing year, and all we can do is hang on for dear life.

I muddled through my baby's first fever, and I didn't die — as I thought I would — when I found my first gray hair (likewise, my first gall-bladder attack).

At age 43, I even accepted the fact that I was never going to the prom. But getting old was a mystery to me.

By 50, peers aren't much help figuring out what life has in store for us around the bend — if we can still bend. But at least by then we know what we don't know, which is a step in the right direction. We can stop contemplating the great mysteries of life, and instead spend our time guessing which of our internal organs is going to explode next.

I wish I'd had a little warning before I turned 60. They say figuring it out on your own, as you go along, builds character. No, it does not. But it will make you cry yourself to sleep sometimes.

That's why I'm going to share what I've learned in six-plus decades with those ladies who come after me. Heads up, gals — it's downhill from here.

There really is such a thing as trifocals, and someday you will probably need them.

The day will come when a warm fudge brownie topped with French vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce isn't your friend anymore; it is merely padding. The calories you take in and the calories you burn will no longer cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter. Henceforth, every morsel you eat will be stored forever in a soft, marshmallow-y place called "thighs."

The words "elastic waistband" will be music to your ears.

You will s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. You'll likely be able to keep up your usual hectic pace well into your 50s. But one morning you'll awake, throw your legs over the side of the bed, put on your slippers, and decide you need a nap. It's OK, give in. I won't tell anybody.

Hey, if I could survive the first half of my life intact — though somewhat worse for the wear — so can you. Here's hoping the second half goes as well, for all of us.

Wait, before you go, can anyone tell me what a "dental implant" is, and why I need one?

Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at cbetter@juno.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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