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Warmest regards: We never see it coming

My best friend is usually lighthearted and is always a few seconds away from a laugh. I get so much joy just from being around her.

So I was surprised at our conversation as we were getting ready to swim in her pool.

“I never expected this,” she said rather morosely.

Never expected what? I asked.

“I never expected to get old,” she said.

I told her getting old is better than the alternative of dying young.

She dropped the conversation.

Yet when we talked on the phone a few weeks later she was still talking about what to her were the unexpected challenges of growing older.

“Did you ever expect to have your children grow up, leave the house and not return?” She asked.

“I never expected to get hit with the problems of aging and to be so totally alone,” she added.

Another friend who is more inclined to joke rather than have a serious conversation also said he never expected to reach old age.

“If I would have known I was going to grow old I would have taken better care of myself,” he joked.

While he said it as a joke, it’s a fact of life that how we do or don’t take care of our bodies has a major influence on what we will face as we age.

Of course we don’t think about that when we’re younger.

I think we’re so busy being caught up in our everyday life that we give little thought to the future. Anyhow, it would be a foolish waste of time. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow so we sure as can’t picture that nebulous concept of “getting old.”

When I tell my best friend growing old is a privilege, she says she never expected that so-called privilege to include losing her husband and seldom seeing her family.

That’s the wrong focus, of course. It’s more productive to think about what we do have rather than what we don’t have.

I truly believe every day is a gift. Every day can bring its own rewards if we keep a positive focus.

A beautiful evening sunset is the same for someone young or someone old. Enjoyment depends on attitude, not age.

I do understand what my friends mean when they say they never envisioned the changes they face as the years go by.

One of the constant joys of my life was always my big Italian family. My four aunts added so much to my life, as did my cousins. I often found myself thinking there should be a stronger, better word than “cousin” to describe the close relationship I had with them.

While some classmates talked about fabulous vacations to out-of-state sites, my family vacation was going to Knoebels Grove, where all of us cousins squeezed into a two-bedroom cottage. I’ll never know how we did that, but I sure do recall feeling privileged to be there with my fun-loving cousins.

When it was time for our school prom, my cousins said I could shop in their closets, taking any gown I wanted. I had a new, gorgeous gown every year, thanks to them.

My cousin Marie was only 4 years older than I was but she gladly took on the role of mini-mom when my mom and her four sisters worked. Marie walked home from high school each day to make me lunch.

We were definitely a family that loved each other. Even when we went to a family funeral we all had plenty of laughs along with the sorrow of losing a family member.

When we went to church our big family took up three or four rows.

What I never saw coming was the day when there were no longer enough family members to fill one pew. There are only three of the 11 cousins left and all of my wonderful aunts are gone.

I never foresaw the day when I would be the matriarch of the family.

If I had, perhaps I would have paid more attention to family history because when a young relative wants to know about our family, they turn to me, just as I turned to my aunts.

If age brings sorrow, the one that I wish I could change is having my family gone.

I never saw it coming that my mother, father, sister and husband would depart from my life way too soon.

I still am rewarded with happy family memories of the simple joys I enjoyed with them - a picnic under a Knoebels pavilion, cold watermelon waiting in the creek where we put it to stay cold, then walking in the creek on the slippery stones while trying to stay upright.

All that costs little. Yet it was priceless to all of us. And the memories are still priceless.

There is plenty I never saw coming. I never saw the day would come when I wondered who is the older woman who stares back at me when I look in the mirror.

And like my best friend, I never saw it coming that I would grow old.

Nevertheless I never fail to start each day with a thank you for the gift of another day. And I never stop being grateful for the blessings I encounter in each day of life.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.