There seems to be a difference of opinion as to when we get “old”. I think some people actually are born old. It would be nice to test that theory and watch the old wrinkled face and grey hair miraculously transform into vibrant, energetic youthfulness. It woud be even nicer to stop the process mid way when we became satisfied with the result and just stay there. Unfortunately that is not the case. The Mills Brothers in the 1950’s sang a warning not to be old at thirty-three. Does this mean that age is simply a matter of choice?
Looking at family photos of our families from the past, I am amazed at how old the people looked when still in their thirties and forties. They not only looked older than their years, they acted older. Their risk-taking and playfulness was gone and they were serious about their parenting and everything else.
When I was 38, being late for an appointment, I ran up a flight of stairs, taking the steps two or three at a time. I was reminded of my mother, whom I thought old when she was 38 and I was 18. I was shocked that I could have been so cruel.
Today I heard that we might someday live till the age of 122. The question is do we really want to stick around that long? We are bound to lose some important faculties in that extended time. Driving could be a problem, but With the advent of driver-less cars it might not be so bad. As with old cars, their would always be some tweaking to be done; a new paint job, valve change, emission tests, etc.
The Alameda girls, who haven’t been “girls” for over seventy years, gathered for lunch at Rossmoor last week. Rossmoor, for those of you who don’t know, is a rather posh adult retirement community in the town of Walnut Creek, surrounded by 1200 acres of gorgeous natural landscape. One of our members moved their five years ago, and though very happy, she no longer drives, and her daughter lives an hour away. So the maternal guilt will soon send her back to Alameda, where her daughter still lives. There are several daughters who bring their mothers, and one daughter brings her year old grandson. They listen to old high school memories and marvel that we were so ‘modern’ in the “old days”.
One of our mates has recently shown some problems with dementia, and will be living in a facility in San Francisco. Her daughter, who has brought her mother to our luncheons for several years, told the facility that her mother wanted to be “usefull”, so she is now folding napkins, towels, etc. Yes, she was busy and useful all her life, helping to raise children, help in her husband’s business.
One friend, in the ROTC with me, and ballerina with the San Francisco Ballet, works at her church feeding the poor, helping put on weddings, volunteering at the hospital. When she recently passed her driver’s renewal test, she went out and bought a new car. She, along with two others has lost a child within the past two years.
My point is that these women, all over 90, are still doing what they can. Do we look our age? Probably, but I haven’t noticed the change. My husband often asks if I think people know we are older? When young girls offer to help him lift a heavy bag of compost into the trunk, or someone rushes past me calling out “You need help Mama?” I think they recognize our advanced years, and I think people are genuinely kind.
Long ago, a very young grandson asked how old his great grandmother was. I answered that she was 82. He then asked how old I was and I jokingly said I too was 82. Puzzled, he gripped the sides of his hair and said ” well if you are both 82, why don’t you have that hair?” I wonder if they look at our photos now and see old?
Remember, it will all come out good in the end, and if it isn’t good, it isn’t the end.