For the last 15 years I’ve maintained a spreadsheet that I call “Ancestor Ages”. I’ve used it to keep track of my and my wife’s relatives in prior generations, their date of birth, date of death, and the age that they live to. For those who are still living, I track their current age. I update this spreadsheet once or twice a year. For this blog, I’d like to draw some conclusions from all the dates/ages in this spreadsheet, ending with some of my current reflections on my own aging.
The two individuals at the top of the chart are, rather interestingly, not blood relatives. Rather, the oldest person was my father-in-law’s step-grandmother who raised him. She lived to the age of 99. But the second person in the list is my own father’s step-father who helped raise him. He was born shortly after the Civil War and lived to the age of 93. I’ve told his story before here (http://ramblinrussells.blogspot.com/2015/03/genealogy-story-charles-rogers.html).
Some of the other people right near the top are my wife’s “Aunt Katy” who is still living and who will be 92 in a couple of weeks and her second husband who passed away two years ago at the age of 93. Aunt Katy and her first husband were my wife’s “second parents” who were her employers when she left home after high school and who encouraged her to take some classes at the local community college.
At the other end of the list are a number of cousins and in-laws who have passed away at much younger ages, i.e. younger than my wife and I are now. I don’t keep the people of our current generation on the list as it would be too much work to keep track of all the ever-changing ages. But when they pass away I add them to the list. I’ve written previously about my cousins (see http://ramblinrussells.blogspot.com/2016/02/cousin-memoriam.html). There are also three of my wife’s in-laws (i.e. the spouses of her siblings), who all passed away within about a year of each other.
A large part of the rest of this list are my and my wife’s parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. I’ve used this data previously when trying to calculate about how long my life expectancy is (see http://ramblinrussells.blogspot.com/2015/06/how-long-will-i-live.html). One interesting item is that my father and both of my mother’s brothers all passed away with only a few months difference in their ages. My mother’s older brother was the same age as my father and they were best friends, beginning in high school, then through the marriage of my father to his best friend’s sister, then through living only a few houses apart for nearly 60 years. When my Uncle Zeke passed away my mother said that affected my father greatly and contributed to his losing the will to live himself so that he passed away just a few months later. A lot of my and my wife’s relatives are clustered in their eventual age in their 80s.
But of primary interest to me in this blog is the position that my wife and I occupy in this long list. We are now reaching the point that we are beginning to “pass” some of our ancestors. In particular, this past fall I became older than my paternal grandmother was when she passed away. (I’ve told her story before here http://ramblinrussells.blogspot.com/2016/01/shell-keep.html). And, in keeping with the great many parallels between my wife and me, in only a year or so she will be passing her paternal grandmother as well. Since both of these ladies were “old” in our estimation when they passed away, does that make us “old” as well?
On the one hand, there are several reasons to answer, “Yes”. My hair, what there is of it, is almost entirely white. And my wife is starting to let her white hair start to show. If you ask our grandchildren if we are old, they answer in the affirmative – mirroring what I thought about my own grandparents for most of their lives. And both my wife and I have our share of sore joints and some of the other afflictions of aging. We have now passed our 45th anniversary and it’s not going to be many years before we’ll be celebrating our golden anniversary.
But on the other hand, there are also several reasons to answer, “No”. While we are beginning to “pass” people in my spreadsheet, the vast majority of our ancestors lived into their 80s. So we have more than a decade to go before we reach that milestone. We also each have a cousin ahead of us in the list who is still very active. Finally, since we are taking care of four of our grandsons on a daily basis, getting down on hands and knees, playing with and picking up toys (mostly the latter), etc., we are having experiences that are shared with many who are younger than we are (although it’s always helpful if the two of us have a nap sometime during the day to keep going!)
So, I’m not ready to declare myself “old” just yet. But I will admit that I am starting to slow down a little.
In the end, it’s all going to be in God’s hands – both how long we live and under what conditions we get there. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the ride as well as enjoy the life partner, my wife, whom He has blessed me with!