Through the years I have developed a longer vision. And now, in my 70s, it seems sharper than ever; I can see things through to their best endings, even before I can be any closer to them. This must be what I’ve heard called “the confidence of age.”
I don’t remember exactly who said it and what he or she meant by it, but it has left me with a useful and happy sense—a sort of calm that preempts anxiety and tempers fears of the future.
It must be this very confidence that has kept centenarian Helena Benitez going fearlessly, reading all the newspapers, as she has done all her life, to keep abreast of what’s happening in the country she once served as senator and more constantly as educator, and proclaiming in the end, “Everything will be resolved in God’s time.”
Indeed, I’ve seen things work themselves out for me, often better than I expected or even hoped, and oftener despite myself—despite what I did or didn’t do. Initially, they may not look to be going that way, but it seems the confidence of age, a power unto itself, steers them suitably.
Do I feel thus deprived of the excitement of surprises? Do I really need any of it at this age? In fact, my appreciation of life is enhanced, not unlike in the case of a child who enjoys a story more in the rereading, when all the anxiety of the first reading has been resolved and replaced with the foreseeability of the ending.
Fetching my first-grader from school, I see a few other grandmas of my exact type, exuding the happy anticipation of a hug from their own granddaughters, not thinking beyond the moment.
We seem out of place among the young, anxious mothers, who may have had to take timeout from work or chores to do a solemn duty, who from there may have yet to do their groceries or pass a school-supply shop, some themselves driving. I’m tempted to tell them that they’ll get through the day, that everything will turn out all right, that it is a stage of life to enjoy their children, that it is, in fact, the easier stage of raising children, and that time flies.
Me—I’m beyond the anxieties of youth, assured that my own children will be able to cope as I did, even if it’s not clear exactly how. I’m facing things new to me, but thankful I’m doing so at this age, when acceptance is the better option than anxiety.
A dear contemporary has been rushed to the hospital with pneumonia, and another friend, in her 80s, diagnosed with breast cancer, destroying the myth I clung to that the older you get the less the chances of your getting it; the father of my children himself has just undergone hip surgery after a fall.
But despite their condition, they’d probably feel worse for the mere boy, an 18-year-old college sophomore, who has died in a fraternity hazing, or the 40-year-old son of a friend’s friend who succumbed to his first heart attack.
Life is the battlefield on which we’re all fighting constantly. And it’s precisely in this context that the confidence of age serves as a gratifying perspective; for me it comes in the form of gratitude—gratitude for all these years I’ve lived in fair health.
At some point, necessarily, age progresses in inverse relation to health. Still, in that context, the confidence of age should prove itself a healthy perspective. It allows for a long vision, a vision that, in fact, lengthens further as one grows older. It’s a vision more retrospective than prospective: the former informs one of the life one knows, the latter affords one a mere guess at a life one does not know and therefore fears.
The confidence of age precisely allows for fearless vision, and this vision is fearless because it accommodates the future only a day at a time. Employing it for myself, I see a past well lived and a future with no cause for worry.
Indeed, with my faculties intact and lost hair considerably recovered, with excess weight shed and blood consistency normal, with modestly comfortable means, how can I complain? Even if things weren’t so fine, how could life, by such a narrow measure, be judged unfair?
The circumstances of one’s life may well have to do with what one has done with one’s time as well as one’s attitude in living it. And one’s own appreciation of all that is what, I think, makes for the confidence of age.