I moved to Maine in my 20s and thought nothing of planting and tending a quarter-acre garden, splitting a cord of kindling with an ax, shoveling snow, and caring for a variety of animals. I was lucky enough to be born with a healthy body and I’ve never broken a bone or had a serious illness.

Throughout my 30s, I taught school. I worked with teachers who seemed vastly older than me, but looking back on it now, I realize that they were only in their 40s or 50s, an age I now consider young.

Age is funny that way. It creeps up on you when you’re not looking. I was so busy tending two children and keeping up my house that I hardly noticed what was happening to my body. Of course, in a lot of ways we aren’t given much warning. When you look at people who are older than you by a few decades, you see gray hair and wrinkles, but not much beyond that. And it’s mostly the old who sit around and talk about their infirmities.

I never knew about skin tags or what would happen to my breasts after years of breastfeeding and gravity. No one told me about the way my bones would click together with certain movements. Or that my fingers would suddenly, inexplicably, freeze up and I would be unable to close them into a fist for a few minutes.

When I was 60 and working outside hauling rocks, I remember how amazed I was that someone of my age could do that. It’s true that I’m more able than many of my peers. But I couldn’t do the work that I did at 60 now. My neck is starting to complain and my shoulder aches from all those years of poor posture. Things are breaking down and wearing out.

I don’t have many gray hairs though the wrinkles are settling in. And so many people around me are so young! Still, I’m hoping for a few more good years. Plus I have a pile of four cords of wood to stack. I’ll just take my time

This poem is from Paul McFarland’s book, “Father’s Shoes” (Indie Author Books, 2020). Paul, a Maine native, taught algebra and geometry for 10 years before entering the world of commercial fishing. He was employed for over 40 years by a company that operates five factory trawlers in Alaska. Recently retired at the age of 75, he now resides in Lincolnville with his wife of over 50 years, Sheila.

Paul wrote this when he was in his 60s for a friend who was turning 70. He told me, “I got the idea from a song by Ray Price — ‘I wish I was 18 again.’ When I turned 70, I changed the lyrics a bit.”

My Seventieth

I wish I was twenty again.

An eighty pound pack

Was light on my back.

I wish I was twenty again.

I wish I was thirty again.

I’d go somewhere I’ve never been.

I was then full of pep,

A spring in my step.

I wish I was thirty again.

I wish I was forty again.

No aches and no pains up ’til then.

I’d run a 10K

on most any day.

I wish I was forty again.

I wish I was fifty again.

I could still have sex now and then.

My muscles and joints

Were becoming sore points.

I wish I was fifty again.

I wish I was sixty again

Though things weren’t the same as they’d been.

But I’ll have a go

With the big seven “O”

And hope I can make the next ten.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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