Oh, to Be 70 Again

Oh, to be 70 again with the rest of my life opening up in front of me. When I was 70, I was working for a foundation and thought it the best job I’d ever had or was likely to have. My career as a magazine writer was behind me and I had few regrets.

My husband and I were getting ready to move. I loved our Princeton house, but after I broke my foot and discovered how many steps I had to navigate just to get in the front door, it became obvious to both of us that we needed to live someplace better suited to aging elders. We’d settled on a retirement community, and the future seemed full of possibilities.

Now I’m 81. If my health holds up, maybe that will feel like the new 70.

But would I really want to be 70 again? Think of all the things I didn’t know back then:

That some of my best working years were yet to come and I’d learn how to write for a website.

That I could come to love a dog as much as I loved the one we brought along to the retirement community—the dog I barely had time for when we lived in Princeton.

That when the dog died, I’d settle for a cat (they don’t need to be walked) and find that I loved her just as fiercely.

That my delightful, very young grandchildren, whom I saw only occasionally before we moved, would become two of the most important people in my life. And that I’d unexpectedly have a third grandchild who would expand my horizons yet again.

That I’d care for my husband for eight terrible months, but they would teach me I could manage on my own.

And that after he died, though I sorely missed him, I’d adjust to living alone—something I’d always dreaded—and learn to like it.

So in some ways, yes, I’d love to be 70 again—if my brain could be 80-something and know all the things it knows now. But you have to live through experiences like these to learn from them.

If I get to 90, I know I’ll be tempted to think: oh, to be 80 again. But imagine the lessons I’ll learn in my 80s that I wouldn’t want to miss.

Live in the present, everyone says, but my head is always somewhere in the future or the past.

Maybe living in the present is something I can learn to do before I turn 90.