The thought of being eligible for AARP never freaked me out. I’ve always enjoyed my age, whatever it was. The day that my notice for AARP eligibility arrived, however, was the same day as my daughter’s kindergarten graduation. Okay, maybe I didn’t feel that great about it!

Yes, I’m 50. Yes, she’s graduated from kindergarten.  And no, she’s not my granddaughter.

I was 43 when my daughter was born. Growing up and living in rural Texas, I knew many women who married young and had their first child before their 20th birthday.  Some were my best friends. Young mothers–not older mothers–are the norm. I am often asked if I’m my daughter’s grandmother.

When she was an infant, I liked to tell myself it was because we didn’t look alike. My blonde hair and blue eyes contrasted with my daughter’s dark eyes and skin. When asked if I was her grandmother, I would smile and say, “No, she’s my daughter.” I would tell myself that they assumed I was her grandmother because we lacked physical similarities. How could they know she was adopted?

Then one day, alone at the grocery story buying diapers, the cashier asked, “Do you have grandchildren at home?”  “What?,” I thought, “My daughter’s not even here. How could the cashier know that we don’t look alike.”  Again, I said smiling, though this time through teeth more gritted than usual, “No, it’s for my daughter.”

Not too long ago, my then five-year-old daughter and I were at the local drugstore. While checking out, the college-age clerk politely asked, “Is this your granddaughter?” “No,” I said, “She’s my daughter.”  We left.  I didn’t think anything about the conversation.

Three weeks later, we returned to the same store and checked out with the same clerk. The young clerk said, “I’m so glad you came back. I’ve felt so bad about asking if you were her grandmother.”

I laughed. She was so sincere. I told her not to feel bad, that it happens all the time. “I’m not her grandmother but I could be,” I said. “As a matter of fact,” I told her, “just today a friend from high school posted on her Facebook page that she is now a grandmother for the fifth time.” The clerk looked shocked. That made me happy. Clearly, she thought I was old to have a grandchild but not old enough to have five grandchildren.

“I’m not but I could be” has become my new mantra. Being an older mother is a lot like puberty. It’s that awkward in-between stage. Instead of being between child and woman, I’m between mother and grandmother. I could be her mother or, truth be told, I could be her grandmother.

I’ll just let them guess.