Returning to School

Me: Look at me, Mr. B. Going back to school….at 60…almost 36 years since I graduated college. I never thought this when I was younger, but now, I get it. Age is only a number and you can do whatever you want whenever you want. I mean, you can’t. Being a dog restricts you. You can’t even get into restaurants. But I can, with legal and physical limitations. 60 is a number and a number I am good with.

Barkley lays down close to my feet, his tail warming my toes as it splays across it.

Me: The other day, I was thinking. I am half over with my life. I know. Wow. That sounds so ominous, but it is true. It is interesting, almost funny, how in my youth I didn’t think much of my age. Maybe it’s because I am the youngest of seven, so I thought of myself as perpetually young. And my mom did call me her baby until the day she died. But now, at 60, with my mother gone and my two children in their 20’s, I look at 60 and think about age more than I did in the past. And no, it’s not all bad. I don’t think of it as a negative. Come on, with age brings wisdom as ‘they’ say. I know I am wiser. I know I am mentally stronger, maybe strongest I have ever been, mentally. I experience the unfairness in life, yet I also see its beauty. I dig the fickleness of life, along with it’s irregularity and unpredictability.

Barkley shoots up his head as if listening to a noise outside, then lowers it.

Me: Aging is part of life. We can never stop it, just like I don’t want to stop the speed of my mind by feeding it. Of course my mind never slows down now, does it? I know my body is starting to show some of its limitations. I admire those who can still carry on, physically, as if youth never left them. There’s not too many of them out there to be honest. Even the best of athletes physically slow down. For me, I know I will never be able to dive for a volleyball on a Chicago asphalt court like I did in my teens, crash into the walls surrounding a basketball hoop like I did in my twenties, or even push out a seven plus pound human life from my-

Barkley glances up with with his glass, doll eyes, reminding me of the look my mother gave me when I went too far.

Me: Well, you know. My point is, I know those days of my body being tested to its limits and still being able to bounce back, are behind me and I adjust accordingly. Time spent on a stationary bike or a walk around a lake does this aging body good. But my mind? My mind has no age limits. I mean, sure, there is the dementia, something I may or may not get. I have seen its effects first hand. Yet, for as long as possible, I will keep challenging my brain. If my big head size is any indication, I think my brain may need a lot to feed it. That’s why these classes are a good thing.

Barkley moves his own head closer in the donut shape he’s making.

Me: Ooops. Sorry, BA. I know. You’re head is really small, especially for your body. It’s one more thing that makes you adorable. And, no, it doesn’t mean you’re not super smart. You are…smart. Um, you’re average. Okay, you do know some things.

Barkley sighs and wiggles to get comfortable.

Me: Where was I? Right. Expanding my brain and going back to school. I know the thought of going back to school is daunting for me. It’s been a minute since I have been in a classroom setting. There the reading, and assignments, and discussions, and note taking, all that stuff. It’ll be new for me again. Newness and change doesn’t come without some fear, which does hand-hold me to anxiety. It’s how I roll. So, yes, I am a little fearful. Only this is something I want to do. Besides, since Peter died, things have not stayed the same anyway. I faced down intimidation before. These classes will be no different.

Barkley picks his head up to yawn, then settles back in.

Me: Sure, it’s exhausting but exciting. Yesterday’s class proved to be better than okay. I asked questions, gave answers, had some creative thoughts, and I even gained motivation to do my writing. At first, during the part where the students talked a bit about themselves and I heard about one after the other speak about his/her/their Master’s or PhD, my insecurity made an appearance.. But, as the class went on, I forged ahead, not thinking about anything but the class itself. Tonight’s class? I don’t know how it will turn out, but I’m going in with positivity. I try not to do negativity too often anymore. It was a crappy way to live when Peter died, and I am done with it. Besides, I am 60 now. I want to live this life in positivity and purpose. These classes will be both – positive and purposeful.

Barkley gets up and stretches. He sees his toy in front of him. He scoops it up in his itty bitty mouth and brings it over to me, dropping it at my feet.

Me: Okay. I’ll throw it a few times, but then I have to do some reading for my next class. Sorry, but you’re living with a student now.