I turned 43 yesterday, which is something I’m very grateful for. My father died when he was 30 and I am painfully aware that each year is a blessing. Each year brings new wisdoms and awareness that I’d never trade for a slightly more youthful self.
Once when I was 16, I dramatically stomped upstairs to my room after some silly encounter with my mother. I decided to process my adolescent angst by writing – thankfully blogging didn’t exist during my teen years – so it was a blue Bic and college-ruled notebook paper. It was a letter to my future me. A 40-ish mom of a 16-year-old.
Unfortunately, it got lost along the way. Fortunately, I remember most of it. (It had two parts: 1. Be involved in your kid’s life and 2. Give them space. Sadly, I didn’t clarify how to do both with a graceful balance.) And now, I am going to pay it forward and write a letter to my 83-year-old me to be read in 40 years. What are the things I want my elderly self to do? To know? To remember? Here it is, with prayers that I may live that long in health and happiness:
Dear Old Ruchi,
You’re nearing the end of a life well lived and I hope you feel a sense of joy and purpose. I want you to remember who you hoped to be at 80, back when you were younger and dumber. So for the sake of those who love you but mostly for you, please try to keep this in mind:
If you want your friends and family to visit and call, don’t be moody about how often they visit and call. No one wants to hang out with a grouch. When they come, smile and compliment. When they don’t, give the benefit of the doubt. The more you can do this the more they will want to connect. Remember Bubby Kaufman who is always so happy to see you and never asks why it’s been so long. Set her as a role model.
Try to not be judgmental about the new generation. They will parent differently from you, eat differently, spend their money differently. It’s true that you’re older and wiser, but Judaism reminds us that a wise person learns from everyone. Keep an open mind. Remember Bobby Friedman who understands that young people sometimes just need time to come into their own. Set her as a role model.
If you want to stay young at heart, remain curious and open to understand new things. Remember when your Zaidy Heimowitz, in his 80s, heard of something called an “app” and said, “I would like to learn more about that?” Set him as your role model.
Unless you need help, try not to complain about aches and pains – not because you don’t deserve validation, but because it makes you a difficult person to be with. People love you so it’s hard for them to hear about pain they can’t fix. They will respect you for this restraint and everyone wins. Remember Grandma Koval, who, while in constant pain, would respond, “Thank G-d” when asked how she was feeling. Set her as your role model.
You were lucky enough to have the grandparents to learn from. Pay that gift forward and give it to the next generation. And always remember what a random woman at a Hampton Inn in Robbinsville, N.J., said decades ago: “Every day that you’re alive is a good day.”
Happy 83rd birthday, Ruchi. I love you.