Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
Another year . . .
April 18, 2003
"When I was young and bold and strong
Oh, right was right and wrong was wrong,
My plume on high, my flag unfurled,
I rode away to right the world.
But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
Inertia rides and riddles me:
The which is called philosophy."
Some random thoughts on aging, as I approach my 89th birthday.
Sometimes as I peer at that wrinkled stranger in the mirror, I am, for
a moment, 20 and tall and slim and full of a passion for life. And I
find myself wondering whether the 20 year old and I are the same
person. Yes, I remember her. She expected to change the world. She
didn't change it much, but she sure had fun trying.
At 20, I was immortal. Today I am not. My body is wearing down.
Things like knees and hips wear out and eyes and ears do not work as
well as they did. The energy level is going down.
Anonymous had it right -- "Old age ain't for sissies."
But there are so many good things too. As we age we start to examine
our lives in a new way. We have acquired tons of experience and
varying amounts of wisdom. We have learned so many things that, in
Eugene O'Neill's words, "the only ears that can ever hear one's secrets
are one's own!"
Several things haven't changed. I have always loved to play with words
and now in my old age I have the greatest job in the world. Good or
bad, I'm a writer. I'm still tilting at windmills and often they tilt
back. When the body doesn't work too well we can still have fun with
And I have always been fascinated by gadgets, or toys as my kids say.
As a kid I loved my toy steam engine. Now my "toy" is that wonderful
machine, the computer.
But so many things are different now. Age 50 has become significant.
In my youth 50 was old -- really old. Now it is young -- very young.
But I still mix them up. When I hear that someone is 50 my first
thought still is "old." And then my brain kicks in and I realize that
50 is young. Egad, the world is being run by children. My sons are
well past 50 as are most of my friends whom I consider young. It's
time to re-set my clock.
Priorities have changed. I find that many things I used to think
important have now faded away. Cooking and housework and meetings
are as far in the past as I can manage. Family and friends are the
important things now. I am thankful for e-mail, since my family is
spread out from San Francisco to London. Seeing and sharing with my
friends is the joy of my old age.
One of the more interesting things I have discovered is that what Rachel
Carson calls the sense of wonder is not limited to the young. I have
gotten mine back after ears of disuse and it is fascinating. Now I
wonder --- ! Things that I took for granted are mysterious again.
How does a tiny, laughing infant turn, almost in the blink of an eye,
into a rebellious teenager? How can a tiny humming bird fly from Grand
Junction to Mexico? How come Mercury the wonder cat is white and orange
and Sugar is coal black? Is there really such an unbelievable animal as
a giraffe? Maybe there are some things we aren't meant to understand.
George Sand wrote, "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."