It's Too Late, Baby

Hard to believe, but it's taken me almost 60 years to finally realize age has its limitations

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The other day it occurred to me I will never be a surrogate mother. I'm turning 60. That ship has sailed.

Not that I ever really wanted to be a surrogate. In fact, I'm pretty sure I couldn't give up a baby I've nurtured in my own body. But I used to listen to these commercials on the radio seeking potential surrogates and I definitely gave it some thought. I'd had three kids already. All were easy pregnancies and fast deliveries. Might be an easy way to make a buck, I'd think. But how would my three kids feel? Would my husband want to pamper me through a pregnancy and not get to keep the child? I entertained thoughts of surrogacy about as long as the commercials lasted. Then I forgot about it.

But I heard one of those ads yesterday and realized I couldn't have a baby now even if I wanted to. I'm too damn old. Hard to believe, but it's taken me almost 60 years to finally realize age has its limitations. The world is no longer my oyster. All those dreams and aspirations I had? Out the window. Might be able to check off one or two before I die, but not the whole list.

For example, I will never be on "Survivor." I've watched the show for 17 seasons now and always thought I'd do pretty well. I'm not athletic but I'm OK at puzzles and I figured I could squeak by on the challenges. I'd play a great social game, as I get along with most people. But I've had a couple of falls in the past few years—one in the basement when I slipped on a rug and tore my groin muscles, another on the stairs when I broke my thumb. And once on a hiking trail, when I skidded and bruised my tailbone. These experiences were painful and set me back for weeks. I think I have osteoporosis. No "Survivor" for me.

I'll also never be a pianist. I always thought I had talent. Granted, we never had a piano but my two best friends had them. I'd sit on the stool and plunk out "Chopsticks" and even "Love Story" while they found better things to do. If I only had my own piano, I thought, I could do great things. But I never did get a piano. And now I have this weird condition called Dupuytren's Contracture. Also known as Captain Hook disease, Dupuytren's Contracture causes the tissue under the skin of the hand to thicken and tighten, eventually causing the fingers to bend towards the palm (thus "Captain Hook"). My dreams of playing piano at Carnegie Hall are over.

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A few months ago a friend of mine who is also turning 60 (the one who actually had a piano but didn't care about it) called to ask if I wanted to hike the Grand Canyon with her for our birthdays. I thought about it for a second and said, "Carol, there's nothing I'd less rather do." I mean, ugh. In my current state, I'm happy if I get out for a nice walk with the dog. Hiking the Grand Canyon would require months of training, during which I'd probably slip and fall again anyway. No, I'm too old to make hiking the Grand Canyon my dream. Not going to do it. Not going to run a marathon either. It's just too much work.

So, what's left? I think back to the girl I used to be and pull up all those old dreams. I wanted to travel the world. Check. I wanted to have children. Check. I wanted to have grandchildren and, like my mother, be surrounded by them. Uh oh—that dream is not yet fulfilled. I hope my kids get going on that soon.

Mostly, though, I wanted to be a published author. I was kind of a single-interest type of person. I didn't like sports. I didn't have hobbies. I spent most of my time curled up in a chair reading. I powered through most of the children's classics by the time I finished elementary school and I came up with one abiding dream: to write for children.

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I did land a dream job writing for a children's newspaper but I have yet to publish that iconic children's book guaranteed to speak to every child in the world. Maybe J.K. Rowling beat me to it with her darn "Harry Potter" series. But yet, I CAN still write. That dream is still within the realm of possibilities. I happen to know one author, Helen Hooven Santmyer, published her first book, "And Ladies of the Club," in her mid-80s. It became a best-seller. I hold Helen Hooven Santmyer close in my mind. I may be the only person in the world who still remembers her. I like Helen because she persevered and, more than that, she won. She earned her spot in literary history. Maybe I can too.

Turning 60 is weird. Let's face it, 60 is old. When you read in the newspaper that someone died at age 80, for example, you think, "Well, that person had a good long life." But at 60, you're only 20 years away from turning 80. That's only 20 years to get stuff done—if you're lucky. Is 20 years enough time? I don't think so. I'm a procrastinator, after all. I either need more time or more motivation. Or maybe I need to come up with a new game plan. Can I change my dreams at this late date? It's definitely something to think about.