A Cake With Not More Than 2 Candles and no Raisins
April 20, 2001
There is a period in woman's life - roughly between 40 and 80 -- when
she prefers not to discuss her age. But I can't see much point in
denying my 87th birthday next week. As son Dave said, "Inside every
old person there is a young person saying, "What the hell happened?"
How does he know? He's only 54.
Even as I wrote that, however, I heard a little voice in my head saying,
"Oh my gosh, what would my mother think?" which tends to prove that
there are some things we never outgrow, some voices which are always
with us. To her, as to most women of her generation, her age was a very
I have long since outgrown celebrating birthdays with motorcycles and
hot air balloons, although that was a lot of fun . Now I much prefer
family, friends, a cake with not more than 2 candles and no raisins,
and not too much excitement.
George Sand made a wonderful statement when she was 72, "The thing is
that when one's old, in the sunset of one's life -- the best time for
richness of colour and light -- one acquires a new approach to
everything... When you feel your own "self" getting less intense, you
love people and things for what they are in themselves, what they
represent in the eyes of your soul."
I have found that to be so true. I think about things and wonder about
things that I always took for granted in my more active years. I do
believe that the sense of awe and wonder are gifts given to children and
old people. In the in-between years most of us are too busy surviving
and procreating to have time to wonder. One of the best things about
being a Little Old Lady is having the time to think random thoughts, to
find that the sense of wonder was not lost at all. It just got pushed
aside for a bit. Now I have time to reflect and wonder at what is
really going on around me.
I look at a baby with the same awe with which I greeted my own babies,
but without the overpowering sense of responsibility. So I can just
look and wonder how the tiny creature can be so beautiful, why its fuzzy
hair is gold instead of black, why it's nose is so tiny, what it will
look like when it is six feet tall. I wonder how it grows, molecule by
molecule, cell by cell or all at once. Science can tell me, but I'd
Why are the mountains so high? Why is the sky blue instead of red or
green? Are the beautiful, feathery clouds at dawn really just water
and smog and sunlight or something more magical? Of course I know, but
still I wonder.
But let's face it. Old age is not for sissies. Along with
contemplation, comes loss. When my dad was about my age his best friend
died and he said with tears in his eyes, "All my friends are dying." In
my middle aged arrogance I assured him that it was natural and that he
should be glad he was still healthy.
This year I understand what he was feeling. I have lost three friends
I have had for over 50 years. Jane Quimby and I walked the path and
drank coffee and talked about politics and everything else. Charlie
Traylor gave son John his first "lawyerly" job as a gofer at age 10
and that formed a friendship that lasted until Charley's recent death.
Years ago a gang of us would head for Mildred Shaw's house on 12th
Street after work for a drink and the liveliest conversation in town.
Later we spent ten years together in the Great Books program hunting
for an eternal truth. Maybe she has found it.
I miss them.
Often I have said -- as a joke, but I hope it's true, that I intend to
live until we get a woman president, a Democrat, of course. So It is
quite possible that I will set a record for longevity in Mesa County.
But for now, I'm looking forward to that birthday cake. Hope it's