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With age comes a lot: aches and pains, wisdom, and boundless love

This past week was one of the best my family has had in, well, I don’t know how long. The week held my son’s and my husband’s birthdays.

Carole Townsend

My sister and brother-in-law came in from Memphis, and all four of our children, as well as our precious little granddaughter, were here. These days, my husband and I call that a week that’s pretty close to perfect. Funny how we redefine what we call the “perfect week” as we get older, isn’t it?

Three (OK or maybe four) decades ago, the perfect week was one with no school, or perhaps one in which the girl or boy of our dreams asked us to go to a movie. Most of our time was spent on us, our friends, and our teen fantasies. 

Three decades ago, a great week might have been one in which we got a promotion, or landed the job of our dreams. Most of our time was spent working and getting ahead. 

Twenty years ago, when we were starting a family, any great week was one in which the kids weren’t sick, or one during which we could sneak away for a family vacation. Our time was all about our children and still, our work. 

Ten years ago, great weeks were defined by our kids’ accomplishments and successes, whether in sports or school. Most of our time was spent at the ball field and at their schools. 

Now, anything is made perfect when we are surrounded by our loved ones. Nothing matters more to us than our family, and of course our faith. Our time is spent mostly at home and at church. Oh, and at the doctor office. Let’s examine that last for a minute, if you’ll be so kind as to pardon the pun.

My sister and I joked this week about how our social lives have changed. I passed the 50-year mark nearly five years ago, and I am amazed by how many doctor appointments occupy our calendars after that magical age. On one hand, I am grateful that these screening measures are available to us but on the other, I am exhausted by the time commitment of getting all those screenings done. I suppose our turning fifty is akin to a “classic” car’s odometer rolling over to uncharted territory. Maintenance is an aging car’s only hope and even with the best of maintenance, things can go terribly wrong. It’s the same with us humans; prevention is the best medicine. 

We “over-50-ers” talk about the magic age of 65 (the onset of Medicare eligibility) as though we’re discussing an upcoming Caribbean cruise or some fabulous anniversary celebration. Why? Because so much of the cost of these screenings is eased a bit by Medicare. Let’s hope the brain trust in Washington doesn’t wreck that for us.

Decorum dictates that I won’t go into the specifics of these screenings, so I will spare the details. Suffice it to say that, once all the year’s checkups are complete, we will have been poked, prodded, inspected and hopefully, passed like a USDA-inspected chuck roast (until next year, when the process starts all over again). 

I realized something Saturday night that struck me, something that I had to sit down and think about for a moment as I proudly looked over our family gathering. Some of us were sitting and talking around the fire, our children were in the house laughing, talking and then watching a movie, and our little granddaughter 0 fresh out of the bath and wearing those adorable little-footed pj’s, was sitting in first my lap, then our daughter’s (her mommy’s). I was looking at three generations of our family. That may sound silly to some, but to me, it was sobering – profoundly sobering.

My husband and I have found it important to us in the past few years to pass along some things, including our knowledge in our respective fields, but also our family traditions, the things that have always mattered to us and to our children. We feel a pressing need to pass down to our children knowledge, traditions and all things that matter. I do not mean to sound morose or morbid; quite the opposite, in fact. We feel the need to make sure that the things that make us a family, make us a family long after we’re gone. I imagined Saturday night, just for a moment, our children hosting a gathering like the one we just enjoyed, and their children hanging out in the house, laughing and talking, and their children sitting in their grandparents’ laps. I had to smile because the vision was lovely.

No, this past week was not nearly perfect. It was perfect. I hope we can have another just like it, and very soon. Our children are all busy with their careers and their own lives, so arranging such time together can be a challenge. Still, I hope we do it again soon. With the holidays fast approaching, it’s looking pretty good.

This week, it’s back to work and other commitments and of course, it’s back to the long list of doctor appointments. I’m starting to feel like the character “Norm” in that old hit show, Cheers. Every time I walk into a doctor office, the staff (and sometimes the patients) greet me by my first name. Our daughter, now 23 years old, thinks the whole spectacle is weird. Just wait, I think to myself. Who knows how many screenings will be available when you hit 50, my dear? And God willing, everyone will know her, and her daughter will think that’s pretty weird, too. 

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit