Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
At 85: Traveling in my Easy Chair
My 85 year journey from infancy to today has been a very good one. Been
there. Done that. Enjoyed most of it.
April 23, 1999
Thoughts on turning 85:
Things I'm glad I did:
Things I'm looking forward to:
- Played basketball and hockey and softball at C. U. back in the
- Explored the Bookcliffs on a motorcycle.
- Became a computer nut before it was stylish.
- More great conversations with friends over coffee (and/or food).
- A pro-choice Democratic female president.
- The next Marne Davis Kellogg mystery.
At 20 I saw action and passion and excitement. I was sure I could save
the world, but wasn't quite sure what needed to be changed. At 85 I see
relationships and warmth and quiet joy. I still want to save the world,
but I still don't know how!
Now I do my traveling with memories in my easy chair. I can look out
the window and stroll across the wooden bridge over the lake on the C.
U. campus in the moonlight. I can ride the Staten Island Ferry in the
very tip of the prow and bicycle up Wall Street. I can walk in the
garden of Chopin's home outside Warsaw and stand in Anne Frank's tiny
room in Amsterdam and let the tears flow. I can hike through the
saguaros and drive down the beautiful palm lined streets of Phoenix.
I can remember how I got involved in social causes. I wish I had been
a Feminist when I was young, but historically, I would have had to be
pushed in a baby carriage in a suffrage march. But oh how well I
remember the excitement of those early days of the second wave of the
women's movement. I never burned a bra, but I marched for the ERA and
helped start a chapter of NOW and it has been my cause for 30 years. I
have fought for women's right to control their reproductive lives. I
have battled against censorship of writing or speaking. I have loved
batting my head against the establishment and still hope to live long
enough to see a woman president.
I have been lucky, I know. My life has been filled with good parents,
two fine men who call me Mom, good friends and lots of excitement and
And now I am doing what I always wanted to do when I grew up - write.
Writing has always been a part of my life, but it is truly the joy of my
old age. Now I pound out 700 words every week. Good or bad they
represent a lifetime. The smartest thing I ever said was to a third
grade boy one day when he asked me how long it takes to write a column.
"A lifetime," I said.
At 85 it all comes together -- sort of -- all those influences. You go
back and remember and pick out the parts that influenced you most, throw
out the rest, and fill in the holes with imagination. You go back and
think about your journey. If you are very lucky it was a good one and
there is still sunshine on the road ahead.
What has surprised me is finding a renewal of that childlike sense of
wonder -- the wonder of the universe, of the human person; the wonder of
a baby's finger, of clouds at sunrise, of the stars out there, and our
planet right here.
My friend the philosopher asked me one day, "What do you see when you
look out your window at 85?" Well, I see a lot of the same things I saw
at 20, but they look different now. The window is much bigger. So many
new things have been added to the view, and I can see so much further
and so much more clearly. The perspective is different but it is, of
course, the same window.
It's a sad week, the week I turn 85. For all those young people in
Littleton, their journey was so short, their window so small. We all
weep for them.
George Sand, who died at 72, certainly led a more exciting life than I
have. She made wonderful sense when she 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