Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
On Getting Older
October 20, 2006
Last week, over a delicious latte, my young friend (young is anybody under 60) said, "Why don't you tell us what it's like getting old?" Hmmmm!
It's different for everyone, but most of us agree that "Growin' old ain't for sissies." Usually I don't think much about old age. I'm where I am in life and so be it. Death is the next step, but beyond making essential arrangements, I don't worry about it. Meanwhile I am extremely lucky to enjoy relatively good health.
Of course, our parts are beginning to come apart or cease to work properly, especially ears, eyes, legs, knees, shoulders and hips. And I feel the deepest concern for those of us suffering from serious disease and/or constant pain.
One of my breakfast companions this morning suggested a quote from Willa Cather. We can't find the exact words, but it expresses my feelings so well that I have paraphrased it here.
Old age is a small price to pay for all the things we have seen, all the places we have been, all the things we have done, what we have learned, who we have loved.
I have had a wonderful life. I had fine parents who loved me, and were very active in the community, a great combination for a kid. I have two fine men who call me Mom and don't tell me what to do. And there are three highly talented young people who call me Grandma, and wonderful friends who call me Friend.
Now I can sit back and enjoy it all. I can think about the past when I want to, but only the good parts. Or I can think about today and think about my causes: the women's movement, freedom of speech, politics.
I am so lucky that at age of 75 I found out what I wanted to do when I grew up -- write. I love writing this column, even on the days that I am pacing the floor and swearing at the whole profession of journalism.
Members of my family live many miles away, but I am in close touch with them and see them now and then. And as for my baby boomer friends here who take such wonderful care of me, well, they are awesome.
I suppose old age means to me the joy of doing what I love to do, with the privilege of being as sloppy as I am about such things as clearing out messy files, sorting pictures, keeping my desk clean and cleaning my closet.
Each old person(let's be honest about this) has his or her own method of maintaining independence, strength and dignity. And I learned very quickly here in the Commons, that it is smart to remember that. There are those who maintain their independence by insisting on "doing for themselves." It is not wise to offer to help them. And there are those who need or like to be helped.
One friend from here told me about going to a Rotary lunch every week.
When she would get up to get her dessert, every man at the table would stand up and offer to get it. One day one man said loudly, "Hey, will you get mine too?" She was so happy she went over and hugged him.
So what's it like to get old? I don't know. I'll let you when I get there.