by Deborah Steele Hazen
Once you reach the last third of your life you start to slow down a bit, even while time seems to be speeding up.
The “last third” may be an optimistic fraction, but I’m counting on having inherited the longevity gene from the minority of my ancestors who lived into their 90s.
Nevertheless, it is the September, if not the October, of my life.
I don’t spring back from 18-hour days like I once did.
While I technically can still do it, I frequently regret lifting things over 40 or 50 pounds.
Sometime in the last five or 10 years, kneeling became something I stop and think about, weighing the pros and cons, before I attempt it.
Aches and pains are constant companions.
My metabolism, like my energy level, is getting inexorably slower and slower.
I can’t remember where I put my keys or my reading glasses (which have become essential), but events that happened 20, 30 or 40 years ago are crystal clear in my memory.
I hadn’t taken a nap in about 60 years, and suddenly, on nights when I’m not working, I tend to fall asleep in my chair after dinner. Then, of course, I can’t go to sleep, or stay asleep, at bedtime.
I’m not as feisty as I used to be. Oh, I still have the courage of my convictions. I’ll stand up and speak out for what I believe in, or write passionately in this column, but if there’s a way to resolve an issue without getting into a fight, I try to find it.
The Steele family combative nature isn’t entirely gone, but I am picking my battles more carefully.
I am more sentimental than I used to be. Tears come much more quickly. With every death of someone I know, each day seems more precious, every hug more important. I am increasingly aware that the relationships with my husband, our family and our friends are my most treasured possessions. My financial situation is what it is. I am wealthy in love.
While I’m counting on growing more sagacious still, I now believe in the old adage I used to scoff at, the one about growing wiser with age.
I’m hoping it’s still two or three decades in the future, but the idea of eternal rest has some appeal – especially at about one o’clock in the morning on deadline night.
I am becoming ever more conscious of my own mortality – not to mention physical pain – and, as a consequence, I am more cautious than I used to be.
Last Wednesday afternoon I drove to Portland for a meeting and a brief visit with my daughter Erika, her husband Alex and their two boys. I purposefully postponed starting home until about 6:15 p.m. to avoid the worst of the rush hour.
Since they live in the Milwaukie area, I drove to Portland via I-5 and I-205, but came back on Highway 30. It was that really hot day, and the Oregon side is shadier, prettier and usually a more relaxing drive.
I got out of Portland without any hassles, and as I drove through Linnton I decided to use cruise control, both as a means of controlling my own speed and to conduct a little research.
I may be in the process of becoming an old woman, but I don’t drive like a “little old lady,” at least not yet. If I’m in a hurry and I’m not paying attention I tend to get a bit lead-footed. I’ve received two speeding tickets during my almost 47 years of driving, and I’ve been stopped for speeding two other times. One of those times I was going 58 miles per hour, and frankly I thought the police officer was over-reacting. He did let me go with just a warning. The other time, I richly-deserved a ticket, but the nice officer still let me off.
So, last Wednesday evening during my research experiment, I watched the speed zones very carefully and adjusted my speed to the posted limit or a mile or two per hour faster. Over the four-lane stretch from Portland through Columbia City, I stayed in the slow lane and was passed by many cars that were seemingly heedless of the “safety corridor” between Scappoose and St. Helens which has been established because of all the crashes in that area.
The trouble came on the two-lane and somewhat curvy stretch between Deer Island and Goble. A car had been on my tail as I observed the 50 mph limit through Deer Island. As soon as I saw the 55 mph sign I speeded up to 56 and set the cruise control.
After we crossed the Tide Creek bridge, even though you couldn’t see as far as I like to see before passing on a two-lane road, the car passed me, and got back into the right lane without much extra time because of an on-coming car.
I was contemplating how my heart would have been pounding a bit had I just performed that maneuver, when a pickup pulled out to pass me with curves ahead. Sure enough, there were two on-coming vehicles and I had to brake to let the pickup driver back in our lane.
So, my question is, if going 56 mph in a 55 mph zone is too slow – so slow that it causes other drivers to make dangerous passes – how fast should I be driving on Highway 30?
It wasn’t as if I was driving erratically, slowing down and speeding up, braking frequently or weaving all over the road. I never touched the brake between St. Helens and Rainier except to let that dangerous passer in. I was in my lane going the speed limit.
Going 60, rather than 55, on a 60-mile trip will get you to your destination five minutes faster. How important is that, really? I’ve had cars pass me under unsafe conditions, then have had to slow down while they turned off the highway a mile or two ahead. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Next time you’re tail-gating a car which is going the speed limit, and are looking for a chance to pass. Take a moment to think about.
Life is short.
It goes by fast.