4-16-07 officially old

It is official. I am have become an old lady.

It wasn’t official when the grandchildren looked at me in total awe and said, “You’re 50 years old? Wow! You are old!” Children think 15 is awesome, 35 barely to comprehendible and find it impossible that anyone would be alive at 75.
So, I’m a grandmother – I’m a YOUNG grandmother, right?

At least so I thought, until my daughter, the mother of the youngest of our 12 grandchildren looked at my hands the other day.
Now I look at my hands a lot. Somedays when I look at them I see my mother’s hands.

But that day, my daughter looked at my hands and saw age spots. At least that’s what she called them.
Age spots!? I thought. No way! Those aren’t age spots – they’re freckles. I ought to know, my mom had freckles just like them. My daughter just does not know the difference between freckles and age spots.

Even having my daughter declare me old enough for age spots did not make me officially old.

Nor, was I officially old when the AARP sent greetings on my 50th birthday. I mean really, how many 50 year-olds do you know who are officially retired? I declined their invitation to join their not-so-exclusive club and enjoy all those wonderful discounts – I didn’t need them. I’m married to an old, old man who has enjoyed retirement discounts for years.
Nope. None of that made me officially old.

It was the sweet young things behind the counter at the fast food joints who made me old. The sweet young things who gave ME! a senior citizen discount without my asking if I was old enough to qualify.
The first time I shrugged it off.

After all I had rather cavalierly concluded my order, “And, because my dad is a very old man, he gets the free soda.”
The sweet young thing behind the counter looked up at me and said, “You can have it, too.”

That shut me up and taught me my manners. I took the two cups and filled them with ice and free soda.
But, another time – without my father around – I ordered an item from the 99-cent menu and had the change ready to pay the tax. The clerk refused to take it all. She said my total came to a few pennies less than I anticipated.
“No, it would be more than that,” I insisted.

“I gave you the discount,” she mumbled.
Oh. Well, thank you. A penny saved is a penny earned.

Like many old folks, my husband and I count our pennies, and consider the best buy for our appetite and our pocketbook. He likes buffets – but as my mother sadly said when she was about my age, “I just can’t eat as much as I used to eat.”

That truth really hits home when we go out to eat – which we do more frequently now that our children live many driving hours away.
Near the end of one trip – road weary and sagging with exhaustion – we stopped for a break, scooped up the spare change we had accumulated through our travels and decided to use it to buy something to break the monotony of cold, health foods we had brought with us.
My husband ordered fries, one small sandwich and a couple free glasses of water. He looked at me, “that should be enough? Right?” I agreed.

The clerk took the order and patiently watched us count out nearly all of the coins in our fistful of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to pay for the food.

She filled a couple cups with ice water, grabbed fries, sandwich – and a whole lot more food than we had ordered and stuffed it all in a bag.
When we pointed out we had not ordered the extras, she shrugged, “Oh, it was just sitting here. You can have it.”
We raised our eyebrows, grinned and said, “Thanks.” Hey if some sweet young thing decides to give  a couple of road-weary, old folks more than a discount, I’m not complaining.

After all, I’m officially old enough to know that “A penny saved, is still a penny earned.”