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Also see A Female Perspective on Aging, Growing Older - Humor, Retirement, Class Reunions, Adult Birthdays, Coming of Age, Grandchildren and Grandparents.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
'Heartless Cynics' the young men shout,
Blind to the world of Fact without;
'Silly Dreamers' the old men grin,
Deaf to the Purpose within.
Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigor. With such people the gray head is but the impression of the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life. (Charles Dickens)
When I can look life in the eyes,
grown calm and very coldly wise,
life will have given me the truth,
and taken in exchange--my youth.
Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get older is when we're kids? If you're less than ten years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions. "How old are you?" "I'm six and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're six and a half, going on seven! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. "How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!
And then the greatest day of your life . . . you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . . . YOU BECOME 21 . . . YESSSS!!!
But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk. He TURNED, we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're just sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?
You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 . . . and your dreams are gone.
But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.
You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!
You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90's, you start going backwards; "I was JUST 92." Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!" May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!
It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted.
The beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and the respect.
I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted,
The maturity and sophistication.
I was middle-aged, but it was twenty I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle age I wanted,
The presence of mind, without the limitations.
My life is over
But I never got what I wanted.
It's time to think of winter,
It's time to gather in
(Delphia Frazier Smith)
A lad wished he were older,
Dad looked so wistfully
Grandpa was just thinking,
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.
I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 a.m. and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60's and 70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love . . . I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set . . . They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore . . . I've even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not blame others.
BUT, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was NOT the senior citizens who took:
The melody out of music,
The pride out of appearance,
The romance out of love,
The commitment out of marriage,
The responsibility out of parenthood,
The togetherness out of the family,
The learning out of education,
The service out of patriotism,
The religion out of school,
The Golden Rule from rulers,
The nativity scene out of cities,
The civility out of behavior,
The refinement out of language,
The dedication out of employment,
The prudence out of spending, or
The ambition out of achievement,
And we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance from personal relationships and interactions with others!
Does anyone under the age of fifty know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner? Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts as they stand at attention with their hand over their hearts!
A college student at a football game challenged a senior citizen sitting next to him, saying it was impossible for their generation to understand his.
"You grew up in a different world," the student said, loud enough for the whole crowd to hear, "Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, man has walked on the Moon, our spaceships have visited Mars, we even have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with light-speed processing . . . and . . . uh . . . "
Taking advantage of a pause, the senior citizen said, "You're right. We didn't have those things when we were young, so we invented them! What are you doing for the next generation?"
(this article, by author Sybil Carlin, was first printed in the May 1973 issue of REDBOOK magazine, it has since been reprinted in several other publications)
Mrs. Crowell sat erect in the bathtub, trying to remember the name of all the stores she had passed every day as she walked the one block from her home to her elementary school, sixty years before. Thatcher's Pharmacy on the far corner," she mused aloud, "and there was a cigar store on the corner near the house, but I am having difficulty with the middle. A Chinese hand laundry in there somewhere, and a bakery, but what else? What else?
She caught herself and continued her recollections in silence. Her daughter might come to visit today. Caroline had her own key, and she would be very upset if she walked in and overheard her mother. Mrs. Crowell had been a bit concerned last week when, sitting by the window with her back to the door, she suddenly realized that Caroline had entered.
"Mother? Who's there? I heard you talking to someone."
"No one, Caroline. I was just trying to think of the names of the girls in my high school class. It helps me recall things if I say them out loud."
"You don't have anyone to talk to here. You must get so lonely. Don't you think you might like to reconsider--"
But Mrs. Crowell broke in with, "I am not losing my mind. I can take care of myself and I still function perfectly. I don't talk to myself habitually, you know. Just when I'm trying to remember something. It jogs my memory to say things out loud."
"I wasn't suggesting anything, but . . . "
"I know you mean well, all of you. But I'm fine."
Mrs. Crowell gave Caroline no reason to bring the subject up again until she went to her daughter's for dinner the next month and forgot herself while she helped dry the dishes.
"Mother, you were talking about Calvin, the old dog we had when I was little. I heard you."
"He wasn't always 'old' Calvin. We got him way before you were born, when he was just a pup, and I was trying to remember how he grew up. It seems like one day he was making messes all over the house and the next day he was grown up and trained to wait for his walk. I know I trained him, but I can't remember exactly how I did it or how long it took."
"Why do you want to remember?" Caroline asked softly.
Mrs. Crowell was silent, and then she said, "I have to."
When she went back into the dining room the children were gone and Caroline and Tom were sitting together, giving each other meaningful looks across the table.
Tom apparently had been elected this time, because he started right up with: "We think it's time you thought seriously about selling the house and coming here to stay with us. Or you could go to a retirement community where there are people your own age to talk over old times with. We're very serious about this."
"I know you both are, and I take you seriously and offer you a serious explanation for my behavior, which I know has worried you. I am trying to figure out exactly how I got here."
"Please let me finish. I was very young once, and I can't seem to remember growing old. The first gray hair, the first wrinkle, the first time I had to stop and catch my breath going up to the second floor--I don't remember any of it. I remember the first vacation trip we took with your brother, Caroline, but I don't remember getting into the car or the road we took or arriving at the hotel. I remember the day my son died and parts of the day he was born, but not the night he was conceived or the day I decided to have another child. I remember growing up wanting to be a great artist, and I was talented, too. I don't remember when I gave up the idea of art school exactly, or why."
"Why must you know these things?" Tom asked.
And then she looked at him gently and said, "Because I am leaving here not too long from now, and I am not going to go until I find out how I got here. I stay in the house because it helps me to remember. Do you remember, Caroline, the day you got your college acceptance in the mail? I was carrying an African violet out to the back porch, and I was so excited when you told me that I dropped it right on the dining room table. It left a scratch that's still there. One day I looked at the scratch and remembered it all, every minute. There are pieces of days like that all over the house."
After Tom had driven Mrs. Crowell home, he and Caroline talked.
"I guess we had to expect this. She was always so alert that it never occurred to us. But at her age we should have been prepared for it and got her over here while she could still think clearly enough to agree."
"I'm worried about her."
"I am too, but I'm not about to carry her bodily over here. She's not that bad off yet. She gets around pretty well."
"I'll talk to her."
Caroline talked to her off and on for a year, until the day Mrs. Crowell slipped in the tub and went to the hospital with a broken hip. Pneumonia came, and the nurses assured Tom and Caroline that all old people talked to themselves about the past; when she asked, "How did I get here?" they thought she meant to the hospital.
It was a full year after Mrs. Crowell died that Caroline again thought of the conversation they had after dinner that night.
She was standing at the stove one sunny morning, cooking breakfast. She thought idly of the time when she and Tom were first married, when the bacon was burned as often as not, and the coffee was either pale or pitch-black and perfect eggs were an occasion. Of the time she had laughed and told Tom that she wasn't cut out for breakfast cooking, being more of an intellectual type who definitely was going back for a graduate degree and would never have any messy children.
And now standing her, casually rustling up breakfast for five in ten minutes, with the coffee perfect and the bacon crisp, she could not remember when she had learned to do it or when she had decided not to go back for the degree or what had convinced her to bring three children into the world. And she closed her eyes to keep from crying out the question "How did I get here?"