In between naps last week during the several days' recovery following my dental surgery, I read.
Not any of the several books I am currently working through – I didn't think I would have much recall, given the effects of the Vicodin. I was looking for something mildly engrossing that would match my raggedy, drugged attention span and wouldn't tax my brain.
It was a good strategy that left me with several interesting ideas to play with as I drifted off to sleep again.
One was a poem from Maya Angelou that I don't remember reading before. It supports my crabby response to all those magazine ads and websites about life everlasting in fancy retirement communities, illustrated with the same stock photo of a movie-star bland couple strolling hand-in-hand on a tropical beach.
This fantasy is part of the growing phenomenon of “successful ageing,” “positive ageing,” or “active ageing” promoting the charade that getting old is nothing more difficult that deciding whether to play golf today without the merest hint that it is more likely to involve losses that, even when not catastrophic, are real and implacable and inescapable.
Maya Angelou knows that and knows, too, that we can endure it without fairy tales.
When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.
The poem is from Maya Angelou's book, And I Still Rise, published in 2011, when she was 83. Ms. Angelou died last year.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Rose avec Beaucoup de Rubans et de Dentelles