The subtitle of this Weblog, as you can see on the banner, is: What it’s really like to get older. The intent is, over time and from differing angles and points of view, to shine a bright, clear light on what has been a public secret for as long as I’ve been alive.
For years I have tried to find good writing on growing old. I wanted to know what would happen to me physically, intellectually, socially, and in general, what to expect in my later years. But I could find nothing that was not insulting, sentimental or just plain silly. Realizing, after a time of searching, that the writing does not exist was the genesis of timegoesby.net: if no one else would write about getting old, then I would do it myself.
That is not to say there is no writing at all on aging. There are thousands of books on aging – exactly, as I write this, 60,096 at amazon.com. A large number of them have the phrase “anti-aging” in the title, about which Crabby Old Lady will have something to say in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, there are a small number of books that soar in regard to understanding what it's like to get older and you should know about them. Herewith then is the inaugural TGB Book List which contains the best, and only the best of the lot. It will reside permanently on the left rail of the blog, and will be added to only when excellence dictates. Here are the first four.
The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty
By Carolyn G. Heilbrun
Part of the brilliance of this book is that it is not about getting older, it is about being older. From the scholar, feminist essayist and author of the Kate Fansler mystery series (under the pseudonym Amanda Cross), The Last Gift of Time is filled with wisdom and reflections that can be used to illuminate one’s own passage into older age. Again and again, she speaks of the kinds of insights I had been seeking for so long:
“The greatest oddity of one’s sixties is that, if one dances for joy, one always supposes it is for the last time. Yet this supposition provides the rarest and most exquisite flavor to one’s later years. The piercing sense of ‘last time’ adds intensity, while the possibility of ‘again’ is never quite effaced.”
The Summer of a Dormouse: Another Part of Life
By John Mortimer
Former barrister, playwright, screenwriter and novelist, John Mortimer is best-known in the U.S. as the author of the books on which the BBC-TV series, Rumpole of the Bailey is based. The Summer of a Dormouse is the third volume of his autobiography/memoir. Sometimes, when I want a good laugh about growing old, I pull out this book and read the first two paragraphs:
“The time will come in your life, it will almost certainly come, when the voice of God will thunder at you from a cloud. ‘From this day forth thou shalt not be able to put on thine own socks.’
“To the young, to the middle-aged, even, this may seem a remote and improbable accident that only happens to other people. It has to be said, however, that the day will most probably dawn when your pale foot will wander through the air, incapable of hitting he narrow opening of a suspended sock. Those fortunate enough to live with families will call out for help. The situation is, in minor ways, humiliating and comical.”
Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying
By Ram Dass
The man who taught some of us thirty-odd years ago how to Be Here Now is back to show us how getting older is another opportunity for spiritual growth and understanding. As always, in his patience, humor, humanity, clarity and lovingkindness, Ram Dass is just far enough ahead of the rest of us in the journey to be able to show us the way.
“…here’s the paradox, the secret of spiritual practice is that our limits may become our strengths if we learn to work with them skillfully. Similarly, as our bodies slow down, we can use this change to increase our mindfulness.”
The Merck Manual of Health & Aging
By Mark H. Beers, M.D. [Editor]
I have reviewed this medical reference before and it only gets better with use. The writing is clear and easily understandable by a layman. It is informative, useful and places a good, strong emphasis on prevention.
“Pessimists might see an effort to prevent health problems in older people as an attempt to ‘close the barn door after the horse is already out.’ These pessimists think preventive measures pointless once a person has reached old age. Although beginning at an early age is best, it is probably never too late to start on the road to prevention.”
There are other books on getting older that are good, better and a few excellent. The best of those will be added in time, but slowly, with careful consideration.