Pam Perkins | LOOKING AHEAD AT 74
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LOOKING AHEAD AT 74

LOOKING AHEAD AT 74

Yesterday I celebrated my 74th birthday and woke up this morning wondering if I would feel any different than I did the day before.  No change.   I try not to dwell on age,  but knowing that the end is closer in sight brings new thoughts into my head:  When do I look in the mirror and see a different face, or when do I accept that I can no longer ride my bicycle.   I hope to say never.

 

AN ARRAY OF MUG SHOTS 1973-1986  

 

More than one hundred friends wished me happy birthday via social media, and I don’t care if Facebook reminded them.  It doesn’t matter.  It means that when they saw it was my birthday,  they stopped what they were doing and took a minute to write.  I loved all the notes, even the typical ones.  It’s just a number.  You look years younger.   One comment — I hope to be like you when I’m your age —  reminded me of the time when I said the same thing to 75 and 80 year olds,  just after we finished a hard early morning workout, swimming a mile in the pool.  I was probably 35.  It was a ridiculous comment, but a close male friend went overboard and said I still looked hot.   I reminded him that he hasn’t seen me in years.  What gives me a boost is when people appear surprised to see a woman my age climb a steep hill on my bike. My computer reads four miles an hour!

 

 

THIRTY YEARS OF EARLY MORNING WORKOUTS  

 

I’m not fishing for compliments because age hasn’t bothered me much until now, but only because I’m more aware that the remaining years are shrinking and going fast.  And yet, I feel there is still more to experience, and much to accomplish, the latter being a concept relatively new to me.   In my thirties, my accomplishments were like a “to do” list I created weekly, a list where drawing a line through a task,  write a thank you to Donna, meant it was done. But now that I’m older, accomplishments take on a different meaning,  like buying a new house and selling an old one, moving to a new city, learning to become a gardener and prune trees.  New Year’s resolutions are more self-focused and easier to let lapse:  Hug oftenbe kinder, more patient, a better listener,  less sensitive,  lose weight, etc.  For me, accomplishments, unlike New Year’s resolutions, are greater in scope, more challenging and harder to achieve.  They take many forms and come in different sizes.  One year an accomplishment was getting in touch with people from my past and reconnecting.  What amazed me is that people I had lost contact with just popped up out of nowhere.  At Peets Coffee a woman I knew from a yoga class tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a big hug.  We hadn’t seen each other in years,  but now we see each other all the time.  Out of the blue a woman I used to run with called to say she found an old address book that had my number and decided to dial it.   Maybe these are just coincidences, but I believe things happen for a reason.

 

1982   THIS IS ME WITH MY CHAMPION LABRADOR RETRIEVER, BRISTOL

 

I have often wondered how I have come through life, at least so far, relatively unscathed emotionally and in fairly decent health when others have not faired so well.   My friend’s husband didn’t deserve Parkinson’s disease, and one of my closest friends  lost several years of independence and her ability to play golf  when an autoimmune disease hit her  like a freight train,  but, for reasons medical science can’t explain, she got her happy life back when that awful train ran out of steam.  These are questions I some times ask myself.  Do I have good genes? Is it years of consistent exercise?   Was it months of therapy?  Was it because I thrived professionally when some jerks I worked for got fired.   Is it because of the support I receive from Bruce and my girlfriends of many years who laugh with me and at me?

 

2015   CLIMBING MT. TAMALPAIS WITH MY CLOSE FRIEND, DEB

 

I think that with age, confidence comes without our realizing it.  Maybe it’s because at some point in our lives we know we don’t have much to lose.  I think we become less concerned about making a good impression.  We learn to trust our instincts and be ourselves.  At the same time, I wonder if I will ever shed my sensitivity to the things I take too personally.   I’ve heard these comments all my life.  Don’t take things so personally, Pam.  My husbands (plural) have said it and my close friends too.  I watch how others let comments I might take personally roll off their backs, and I wish I could do that.   We are not all built the same.  Our brains work in different ways.

“IS THAT A BIRD ON YOUR HEAD?  NO, IT’S ROLLING OFF MY BACK!”

 

When my mother was 74, she lost her partner of 50 years.  After her grief subsided, I told her not to hibernate because she had things in life to look forward to.  I didn’t use the word achieve or accomplish, but I wish I had.  Maybe my comments would have jolted her a little and set her off on a course different from watching TV and refusing to pick up the phone and call her friends because she thought they should call her first.   I swear never to do that.   By contrast, I take inspiration from my 91 year-old aunt, the last of my mother’s generation.  Although her legs don’t work very well, her relatively strong mind is applied positively.  She’s sharp enough to end our phone conversations with the words “Give my love to Bruce,” when she could easily slip and accidentally mention a former husband.   She treasures my trip stories and reads my blog posts.  She asks probing questions about my travel experiences, when others usually just ask if I had a good time.   My aunt isn’t interested in knowing whether I had a good time.   Instead she wants details.  Why did I choose this destination?  Did I meet any ancestors of the Vikings in Norway?  How did I communicate with the tribal people in Ethiopia?  What did I learn? How did I feel about traveling to such a remote place?  Probing for answers to in-depth questions can only come from someone with an innate level of curiosity, someone who absorbs the answers and continues a lively conversation.   At 91 my Aunt Catherine speaks three or four languages fluently, whereas my mother — when her brain went fuzzy — reverted to speaking only the Vlach dialect she learned as a child.

 

1977   WITH MY MOM AND DAD

 

It’s not easy to define and articulate what I want to experience, achieve and accomplish in the next umpty-ump years of my life, but I know I don’t want life to pass me by like it did my mother in her later years.  I want to be like my brother, who at age 84 is flying to Aspen next week to tackle the ski slopes with gusto.  I want to keep riding my bicycle, experience new things, learn more about the history of the world and its many cultures, continue to stay connected with my family, and build relationships with positive, forward-thinking people.    I want to write more, continue taking pictures, have a solo gallery show, and create a book with the photographs I have taken of people and places around the world.  I also hope to have the courage to submit some of my writing for publication, knowing  I may never hear back, or when I do, it could be a one-liner with the words,  Sorry, but…….    After he retired, my brother wrote a couple of terrific novels, and even though he had professional connections with publishing houses, his manuscripts were never accepted for publication.  But he didn’t let that stop him.  He wrote and self-published a book and sold it on Amazon.  This sort of drive runs in our family.

 

2013  MY BROTHER AT 😯

 

When I don’t recognize a younger self in the mirror anymore, I want the face looking back to show proof of a life well lived.   I gave life my best shot.    In ten years when I’m 84, I want to go to an Aspen-like destination and rather than buckle myself into ski boots and sail down the steep hill, I want to clip my shoes into my pedals and climb up that steep hill.   Then my friends and followers can say “Biker Chick’s Gone Crazy!”

 

JANUARY 15, 2018   MY 74TH BIRTHDAY

mm

Pam Perkins

pamperk@pacbell.net
24 Comments
  • Jim Baldassare

    January 18, 2018 at 11:06 pm Reply

    Great Attitude! Keep It Up! (Love the photos…especially the one with the Lab.)

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 8:47 am Reply

      Thank you. Yes, those were my show dog years!

  • Yasmin Khafagy

    January 18, 2018 at 11:20 pm Reply

    I can’t get enough of your writings
    You make me feel alive and happy when you r happy and a bit scared when you get scared , you take me to your world while reading ur story
    I love each and every word
    Please keep blossoming you r blooming each year Pam !

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 8:48 am Reply

      Yasmin, Your beautiful words made my day, my week, my month, my year. xoxox

  • Teddi Cazana Fritts

    January 19, 2018 at 6:32 am Reply

    Your photo with the “bird” on your head shows your zest for life….you go girl to the bitter end….age is just a number….keep enjoying your adventures because I am enjoying them through you….where are we going next..!!??

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 8:49 am Reply

      Oh, Teddi, I’m glad you liked the humor in the bird hat! Where are we going next? A
      different place.

  • Judy DeFrancis

    January 19, 2018 at 8:14 am Reply

    Pam, I admire you so much. You write so beautifully and your photography captures the beauty of our world. Thank you for sharing. You are a gift. 😍

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 8:50 am Reply

      Judy, We have a mutual admiration society. Thank you so much.

  • Gavi

    January 19, 2018 at 8:50 am Reply

    Pam, me and sri truly want to be like you and Bruce at your age. What a lovely post.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 9:17 am Reply

      Gavi, Thank you so much. Role models are important just like the old-time swimmers were for me.
      I think curiosity is an underlying trait that sustains many of us and keeps people moving forward in a
      positive way.

  • Marie Fox

    January 19, 2018 at 9:39 am Reply

    Clip into the pedals Pam and continue the ride. I suspect the best is yet to come—and that’s not just my P talking to your J!

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      March 15, 2018 at 6:14 pm Reply

      My dear “P”

      I just saw this wonderful comment. Thank you.

      Signed/ always a “J”

  • Silvana Torik

    January 19, 2018 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Thank you Pam! I loved reading this. I felt like you were sharing in person. I could see your smile and your wires twinkling. I will be thinking about your insights on achievements/accomplishments versus resolutions. I line up tight with you on how I want to age. You are an inspiration, Pam. Hugs.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 19, 2018 at 7:58 pm Reply

      Silvana, You and Jerry are role models for others. Not only as successful professionals, athletes, but also in your family life. I love seeing photos of you with your grandchildren (is there more than one now?)

  • Pelin Guven

    January 19, 2018 at 11:34 pm Reply

    I always read your writings with a smile on my face…from begining to end! Yeah, keep giving it your best shot and inspiring us. Love you!

  • Phyl Whiting

    January 20, 2018 at 8:51 pm Reply

    Happy Happy! I just returned from Vegas where I celebrated my 85th. And interestingly I still have a lot of the same desires and drive that you articulate so well. Would love to get together for a joint birthday lunch — like we used to do.
    Happy Birthday and many many more. With love to you and Bruce, Phyl

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      March 15, 2018 at 6:14 pm Reply

      Thank you, Phyl. I enjoyed our birthday lunch!

  • Jean Wise

    January 21, 2018 at 8:20 am Reply

    Hi Pam–I enjoyed this very much. I am in a group at the temple called Wise Aging. “Looking Ahead at 74” fits right in with our goals. It’s important to have friends and relatives who support us!

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 21, 2018 at 12:14 pm Reply

      Wise Aging is the perfect title for you! Thanks for your positive response.

  • John Cardoza

    January 21, 2018 at 11:14 am Reply

    Happy belated birthday, Pam. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–so uplifting and postive. Looking forward to your Antarctica trip presentation.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      January 21, 2018 at 12:14 pm Reply

      Thanks, John. We will see you in a few weeks!

  • Farah

    January 21, 2018 at 11:56 pm Reply

    You are an amazing lady Pam. I enjoyed reading this blog….it made me stop and introspect.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      March 15, 2018 at 6:13 pm Reply

      Hi Farah, I just saw your comment on this blog. Thank you so much for the highest of compliments from someone I admire so much.

  • gilda

    March 15, 2018 at 6:05 pm Reply

    I have to take lessons from you and quit whining about things…..you are my idol and I look up to you. I strive to follow you in courage and energy to live life to the fullest.

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