While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Claire Jean who writes: I am 67 now and both my husband and I were born and continue to live in the Northeast. I work full time; my husband has been retired for several years. I enjoy reading (mostly non-fiction), poetry, swimming, trips to New York City, meeting friends for lunch, reading Ronni’s blog each day, time with my two grandchildren and, recently, watching women’s college basketball.
Let Me Grow Lovely
Let Me Grow lovely, growing old -
So many fine things do;
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?
- - Karle Wilson Baker, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)
Older people, as far back as I can remember, afforded me a sense of well being. To this day, I’m able to find comfort by mirroring images of those gentle faces in my mind while remembering their names as well as the many kindnesses they so generously bestowed upon me while growing up.
Now that I am probably older than some ever lived to be, I wonder - could they ever have imagined how valuable they were then and continue to be even more so now these many years later.
The stereotypical rubbish attributed to aging is not only untrue and cruel but can be quite damaging. Unfortunately, when older people are told that they become invisible, lose their usefulness, health, etc., it can jeopardize a sense of who they really are and might still become.
How can it be any different when television commercials, magazine articles and the like assure us regularly that they have found new and improved ways to help us look and feel younger. The message they send is clear. Growing older is a bad thing.
When someone I haven’t seen for some time remarks that I haven’t changed in twenty years, I’m tempted to reply, “You mean I looked sixty-seven when I was only forty-seven?” The discomfort regarding old age is at such a level it compels some to pretend that aging itself doesn’t exist; hence the foolhardy comments.
Unwelcome age-related remarks at my workplace in a department where the median age is fortyish have not gone unnoticed. However, they have become much less frequent and not nearly as troubling. Hopefully, my colleagues realize by now that I don’t intend to leave the workplace because of age. After all, we older people have had plenty of time to learn and know that no matter what we do, we’ll never please everyone so we must do what’s best for us and our families.
My job requires contact with college-aged students many of whom seem pleased to see and talk to me. When that happens, it’s a win-win situation. We’re able to share ideas and hopefully learn from one another. On the other hand, one can sense the fear and/or surprise when stepping into my office for the first time and seeing someone who by now perhaps resembles grandmom. One can only wonder what their apparent uneasiness suggests.
If only older people were recognized for themselves, instead of the group society has painted them - if only.
Who Are My People?
My People? Who are they?
I went into the church where the congregation
Worshiped my God. Were they my people?
I felt no kinship to them as they knelt there.
My people! Where are they?
I went into the land where I was born,
Where men spoke my language…
I was a stranger there.
“My people,” my soul cried. “Who are my people?”
Last night in the rain I met an old man
Who spoke a language I do not speak,
Which marked him as one who does not know my God.
With apologetic smile he offered me
The shelter of his patched umbrella.
I met his eyes...And then I knew...
- - Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)
EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.