What is Middle-aged? What is Old?

#Midlifing: How do you know when you’ve hit it? 

Another Way for week of April 29, 2017


I remember going to the 40th reunion of my high school class where I attended my first three years of high school. I took a look around at the gray hair and wrinkles and tried to see in their faces my high school chums. I couldn’t recognize some of those I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Did I look equally different to others? I truly wondered if I looked as old as them. This is a common experience for most of us.

I began writing this newspaper column in 1987 (not this specific column, but the weekly editions), which was a year after we gave birth to our youngest daughter. So I was still a fairly young mom at the time, (or older mom, depending on your viewpoint, to be having babies from age 30 to 35). At any rate, we ended up with three kids age five and under after that final blessed birth event.

This helps to explain why as I approached my 40th birthday with my youngest child just starting kindergarten, I definitely did NOT feel middle-aged. Who said 40 was middle age anyway? If you are unlucky enough to drop over from a heart attack in your 50s, then 40 is downright elderly. If you live to be 100 or 105, which is more and more common, then at 40 you’re just getting started.

But the good Lord provided that we truly don’t know these things—unless we draw the terminal-illness-at-an-early-age-card, which too many, tragically and sadly, do.

Jennifer Grant

So along comes Jennifer Grant, a former columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a funny and prolific writer for magazines and blogs, and with books popping out like rapid babies. Her newest book births May 2 from our office called When Did Everybody Else Get So Old: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife (Herald Press). I’ve been blessed to work with Jen on the editing end of her book, passing her baby from copyeditor to designer and through first and second proofreaders, and so on.

Jennifer writes funny—not weird funny, but laugh out loud funny. If you’re anywhere near 40 and up, you’ll love her looks at the transitions of middle age such as the children growing up, feeling inadequate and not as successful as others in your field, going through hormonal swings, and your teenager being embarrassed by something you’re wearing. Been there, done all that.

Here’s one of my favorite stories from Jen:

According to my teenage daughter, I look not only old but also weird in my new glasses. I admit that the woman at the optometrist’s office did mention that not everyone can wear these particular frames, but she assured me that I could. And I quote: “Not everyone call pull off those frames, but you? You’re rocking them!” I walked out of that office with a little spring in my step.

A few days later, unbespectacled at the time, I drive my daughter and one of her friends to Starbucks. They sit together in the back seat of the car, looking down at the screens on their phones.

“My mom has ‘new glasses,’” my daughter announces, apropos of nothing. She speaks the words “new glasses” in gigantic air quotes to underscore her disdain (Grant, p. 85).

She also writes oh so poignantly about an absentee father, her sister who she and a brother often had to rescue after evictions or hospitalizations; the sister ended up dying young of cancer. She writes of an 11-year-itch when she and her husband decide to have marital counseling.

If you’ve ever pondered “Who have I become?” “Is this all there is to life?” “How do I relate to a God I understand less now than I used to?” or ever asked “Now wherever did I put my reading glasses?” you might enjoy Jen’s book.

And if you go looking for the book: look for a book with funky glasses on the cover and title in really big print.

The serendipitous thing about this book is that since we are all aging, Jennifer points to the confidence and grace that this season of life can also bring. She reminds us that midlife is the time to leave regrets behind. It “isn’t the time to make excuses or ruminate. It’s time to move on, with hope” (p. 173). She quotes Solomon in her last paragraph, “What we can do is eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of our labor, knowing them to be gifts from God” (p. 178).


What things told you had hit (or are coming up on) midlife? 

Send your comments to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850. Or, find more about the book at store.mennomedia.org.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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4 responses to “What is Middle-aged? What is Old?”

  1. John Kollaer says:

    Midlife? I can almost remember midlife. Don’t forget, Melodie, when I was born, the Dead Sea wasn’t even sick yet!
    In fact, next Friday I will be celebrating my 70th birthday! But, I don’t look it, feel it, or even admit it. I’m so blessed to still be around and I look forward to the next 10 years with a hopeful heart! And of course along with the hopeful heart, I’ll also have my hearing aids, cataract surgeries, new heart valve and patch, and my Chihuahua.
    The most amazing thing about this time in my life is the fact that my six children’s mother is just turning 40! At least that what she tells me and I certainly don’t want to argue with her. Just because we’ve been married almost 45 years, doesn’t mean she can’t be 40. That’s the NEW math according to her.
    God bless you, Melodie, and just remember this bit of wisdom one of our 100 year old resident’s told be a few years ago: “John, I finally figured it out… you keep having birthdays and eventually something is gonna break!”
    Amen to that!

  2. Melodie Davis says:

    You are just leaving midlife, John. Hope you have a happy 30 years ahead! I like the description of your children’s mother being just 40. Ha. My 36 year old daughter (just turned) reminded me this past weekend that it was she who got me started saying “Well, 39 might as well be 29 etc. when I was the ripe old age of 36. She claims she remembers telling me something along those lines when she was just 6, that I was only 36 which was practically 29! I’m not actually in denial, but it keeps one thinking young maybe. Thanks for showing up here, John!

  3. Beverly Silver says:

    Thanks, Melodie! I am even a little further away from Middle age! Every now and then, I look around and think ‘Old? ?Old ? And then I realize Almost everyone is “younger than I am! I treasure them but I also am grateful for my contemporaries! Beverly,

  4. Melodie Davis says:

    Yes, I know that feeling too, of looking around a room and realizing I’m the oldest one there. And it is ok! Thanks for staying so active and involved, and TRYING to keep up with technology. :-)

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