In the room where they prep you for surgery, "Sixteen Candles" played on the small television. I was waiting with my husband, who was about to get his troublesome right knee forcibly removed and replaced with an improved model.
He had put off this surgery for many years. He tore his ACL playing basketball in his early 20s. For a while, he could wear a knee brace and get around fine. But after a few decades, the joint had worn down to the point where the bone was hitting bone. Even walking became painful. So he finally relented to undergo a surgery, that, frankly, we associate with much older people.
As the parents of young teenagers, I'd like to think we've embraced middle age. We go to bed earlier than we ever did before. We talk a lot about how things were different when we were growing up. I like to remind my spouse that he's nearly a decade further along this path than I am. But there are moments when you start to realize how far you have drifted from youth.
I noticed it when I started hearing a lot of passionate conversations about joints -- knees and backs and shoulders -- in recent years. Also, when did my friends start obsessing about apple cider vinegar remedies and the most effective eye creams? (Don't get me wrong; I'm terribly interested in these topics, as well.) Why was I well acquainted with my loved one's blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers? How come the celebrities I loved growing up were dying?
In a culture in which people claim adulthood later and later, it's mildly disconcerting when you realize you've become physically older than you feel inside. For me, the moment of reckoning hit when my eldest child, who was born when I was in my late 20s, started high school. I remember high school vividly. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago. My child was leaving behind her childhood for adolescence and ushering me into a new life phase, as well.
It turns out acquiring children speeds up time. More so than any changes within myself, it's watching their speed-of-light growth that most acutely marks the passage of time. It takes so long for us to get from kindergarten to high school graduate, but our children fly through those years.
While we waited for my husband to be taken to the operating room, I shared some tidbits from Twitter that seemed appropriate for the occasion. Judd Nelson is as old now as Angela Lansbury was on "Murder She Wrote." My husband shook his head.
Remember when you watched "Gilligan's Island" as a kid, he said. Alan Hale Jr. played the Skipper. He looked old to me back then, he said.
Today, my husband is a decade older than the Skipper.
A former newsroom administrator described turning 50 to us in a way we've never forgotten. He explained that your body tends to feel different when you wake up in your 50s. Things hurt.
"If I woke up feeling this way when I was in my 20s, I'd call 911," he said.
We hope this new knee will turn the clock back for my husband. We are planning hikes and trips and walks around the neighborhood. He thanked me for pushing him to finally get it done. When your wife's persistent nagging turns into sage advice, it must be a sure sign of maturity setting in.
We turned our attention back to the television, to a time when teen idol Molly Ringwald ruled the screen.
Today just so happened to be her birthday, I said.
She turned 51.