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A Note or Two on Growing Old Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

Recently, I overheard some younger people (not youth, more like – oh, early middle-age, late 30s to mid-40s or so) making plans together for a celebration they were looking forward to.

The friends were filled with enthusiasm: You'll do the decorating, right? Who wants to cook? Wait – have we decided on a menu? I'll take care of invitations. And so on.

Pulling it all together sounded like fun (I used to entertain a lot) until I recalled that those days are long behind me. I don't have the stamina nowadays, or even the breath, to do that much work.

What struck me then, however, is that as these younger people continued with their plans, how free they were from even noticing this would be the lot of work I knew it to be.

Because it would not feel like it to them.

That used to be me when I was their age. It never occurred to me then that older people would have trouble getting the preparation done, and I doubt those party planners I was overhearing thought about it either.

Because no one tells us when we are young that old age will be different. It will be harder than when we were 20 or 30 or 40 and maybe even 50.

Part of the reason, too, is that age groups in U.S. culture spend hardly any substantive time together so why would the generations know how we differ (and don't differ) from one another.

Elders' loss of strength, energy and stamina as the years pile up isn't a bad thing; it just is. Bodies wear out and perhaps youth's ignorance of old people's physical decline gives them the freedom to use their energy to full effect. Why burden them with information they don't need yet.

Or not. I'm not sure what I believe about this – it was just a passing thought that day. It's up to you now.

Yesterday, my former husband and I recorded one of our biweekly videos which, once again, centered on old-people chatter. That's because we're old.

Here is yesterday's Alex and Ronni Show.



Comments

You are so right! In particular, I recall my hosting my ex-husband's large Italian family for the Christmas Eve dinner. Wow - the preparations were frenzied and intense, from deep cleaning to so many grocery shopping trips for hard-to-find delicacies. All while I was working 55 hours a week. Technically, I had 1/2 day off beginning at noon for the holiday, but there was always some emergency that prevented me from leaving the office, which meant that some guests were already at my home when I got home from work. Shower? Ha! No time. And other guests arriving after their own family dinners, some arriving as late as 10 p.m. I'm 68 now and so settled into the calmness of retirement that I cannot envision doing that now, even with the luxury of so much more free time.

Good for you, Ronni, and all who ever enjoyed entertaining. Although I did a bit of entertaining in my 20s & early 30s, it was never my thing. Except for family, I believe that my last party was when I was in my 40s and working in Los Angeles - for my co-workers.

As to knowing how energetic elders may be (or not!), I was fortunate to have had four generations of elders to observe. I had no illusions about how people aged. I guess my real surprise is that my husband and I are doing as well as we are doing. Most of those four generations of elders in my family did not attain our age (early 80s).

People will comment about how busy I am in retirement, and I laugh. If you could have seen me when I was working...is always my thought. I could do so much all the way into my 50s. Even now, I do stay busy enough for me, knowing that the days are coming when it will be more than I want to do and I will start to cut back.

I have cut back on one of my volunteer projects, but that cutback has more to do with the lack of appreciation for what I do than the effort it takes.

At the age of 72, I will host one more Thanksgiving this year. One of my kids may, or may not, help me with everything. Preparation begins days before and by the time the day arrives, I am already wiped out. I am thinking of declaring this as my last time, but I don’t know. Thank goodness I only do it on alternate years.

I don’t do parties. I host a book group meeting every so often. Periodically I have family over. I don’t feel like doing any more than what I am currently doing.

Glad to know I am not the only one.

I sometimes think how grand it would be to get up from a chair without having to use my arms as an assist. I know, sometime in my past, getting up from a chair was effortless and the transaction was not noticed. I get irritated when I have to go from one end of the house to the other to get something or answer the phone or whatever--I notice all of these little efforts now, where when younger, I hardly noticed them if at all. And on and on, it all begins to add up. This is exactly why we, my wife and I, are doing a lot of traveling over the next 18 months--do it while we can or while we still want to. The trend is not our friend. Besides the deterioration of the physical part of us, there is the mental part--my brain can't so easily handle as many tasks as before, they have to be regulated so as not to overload it. So, the "double whammy" is physical and mental deterioration. It's a stinkin' situation--but I'll just live with it.

When I was 54, my late husband and I bought an old farmhouse on acreage, renovated the house from the inside out! Never gave it a thought that we couldn't do that physically. And while exhausted sometimes, the job got done.

I'm 67, and luckily still able to be physically active and even exercise on a daily basis. However, as I'm an introvert, I've noticed that trend has gotten more pronounced as I've aged (especially living alone as a widow). What drains my energy the most these days is any prolonged social function and/or lengthy family engagement. Takes far longer to recover.

It's interesting to learn how our bodies/energy dwindles as the years pass. Always find your posts thought-provoking and glad you are sharing with us!

And--despite your "situation", you are indeed looking great, Ronni! Beautiful smile!

I used to visit this cool forum called "Metafilter". It is filled with people much younger than me. I got an education from reading younger people's posts. One I'll always remember was from a woman who drove quite a distance every weekend to visit her elderly parents. She reported: "They both sit in their chairs endlessly. The place is a mess. Come on, couldn't one of them stand up every now and then and drag a dust cloth around for a couple of minutes?" She wrote so dispassionately (even snarkily) about her own parents. But, on some level I understood that she didn't understand. I think I had a few of the same thoughts about my old Mother...how can you just sit there...get up! But I was 50 and she was 80. Now that I am so much older and finding doing things so much more challenging I feel bad that I ever had those feelings. I think you are so right, that if we saw more old people in our own homes slow down, we'd have more understanding. In Russell Baker's book "Growing Up" he wrote that before and during the war years everyone seemed to have an old aunt or uncle sitting at a table playing solitaire. (And the whole family accepted that).

Your conversations help .. on so many issues and levels. I smiled about marriages and 'good at it' or not. I'm on a second and I think that the best thing is having the means to have separate spaces or live next to each other tho' we don't. I look at some marriages as being truly remarkable .. friends, lovers, companions, etc. It makes me tired.

And about smoking .. I'm glad you quit. I never smoked .. well, I tried a puff to see why it was my parents (z"l) did .. constantly .. from the age of 13 or 14 til death. I didn't get it. It may or may not have impacted my health or theirs!

6 months to live and try all those things?! Laughing.

And what doesn't matter when we know one has a terminal illness? How interesting a discussion. I think about that all the time. I think I'd like to sleep more and work less 'cause at almost 72 I'm tired!

Thank you both for the gift of your conversations.

Ronni,
I am paying attention to your headscarves and hats. They are delightful and a wonder to behold.
Faith

"Because no one tells us when we are young that old age will be different."
How different? do young people really believe that they will be , look and behave as old as we, older people , look/behave now? I don't think so! When we are young(ish) we think that only other people get like THAT, and that we will NEVER be like they (older people) are.
A few years ago , I took a Master's in Gerontology to enable me teach younger people what to expect in old age, and what to change if they want to be happier, by that time, than the older generation is now. And I found out that they don't care, as if they expect to remain young forever.
I made it my responsability to pass the message down the line: if you want a better old age, start now preparing for it. No easy task, but possible.

I, too, never gave the encroachments of old age a thought--despite having many elderly relatives when I was a child. I was just puzzled that they wouldn't tear out of the house for a spontaneous downtown shopping trip or "update" various features of their homes because, hey, it's important to "keep up."

Except, actually, it's not. Now that I am in my late 60s, prioritizing tasks for limited energy has my total attention. I finally get it.

One of the great struggles of this time of life is that everyone we deal with--who has some say over our lives--is so much younger than we are, specifically adult children and doctors. And that's *really* scary.

Phew! Glad it was technical and not physical, so to speak.

I start an hour or two sooner if there's to be a lot to cook, and always cook with a glass of wine ready for a quick sip on the side.

I still miss my mum tho', we used to dance around each other in the kitchen when we cooked for the family. We were usually somewhat tipsy by the time the guests arrived. No one seemed to mind.

Nowadays, I dance and sing loudly on my own to Led Zep or Bob Dylan and then let the young ones do the clearing up. I love listening and watching my son and d-i-l organize their parties and dinners. Who wants to think about what it will be like in 20 years? They certainly don't and I'm not going to tell them.

Relieved and glad you're back online Ronni. Missed you.
o/

Being an introvert I never did much entertaining, and I do zero now which is fine with my equally-introverted spouse and me. What isn't fine is that due to having outlived my body, I can no longer do many of the things I did even a few years ago.

Because I'm less active, I've gained 5 lbs. this winter that I'm trying to get rid of--which isn't as easy as it once was because eating what I want is one of my few remaining pleasures. I'm "lucky", I suppose, in that at 82 I've so far evaded the killer diseases of old age, but sometimes longevity seems very much a mixed bag.

Did I say, old age: Bah, humbug! ?? It is what it is. . .

Welcome back Ronni. Thank you so much for your articles, posts, videos. Thoroughly enjoyable, needed, and much appreciated. You look wonderful!

I've just turned 73 and find myself in somewhat the same situation. Just had a melanoma removed and will be starting treatments every two weeks, to make sure it doesn't come back. Quite a surprise!

I too have been doing a lot of reminiscing, writing, & am in awe of all that I did: teaching full time at a college, directing shows, designing costumes, even chairing the dept., and also raising a child, all at the same time. Often had opening or closing night parties at my house. The last thing I want to do now, is all of the above!

I now enjoy my two little puppies, fighting for our Democracy, reading, drawing and painting, & eating what I want and when I want, but have found that my energies have changed and I've become a lot more introspective and am enjoying it!

Each age has its blessings and shortcomings, and so many are not given the privilege of a long life. So glad you're back to share so much with us.

My mother told me how dreary marriage was, how I'd be lucky if I never started menstruating, how un-fun sex was, how hard children were, etc., and also that it was a man's world and I was only a woman, and who was I to expect some kind of purpose in life. She did not, however, in her 90 years, tell me what to expect from aging.

I tell all my younger women friends. I think I owe it to them, so they won't think there's something just weird about them. I tell them about the dry skin, the loss of fingertip sensitivity, the loss of energy, the failure of one's internal thermostat, the difficulty in maintaining one's earlier weight, short-term memory stuff--you know, there's a thought, it's a butterfly, you have to grab it now, or--poof!!--it's gone . . . They say they appreciate my telling them. Even if they don't, when things start happening to them, they may be able to think it's normal. :-)

As a woman about to celebrate my 60th year on earth and is still working, I continue to be amazed at the generations who currently work together. I have colleagues in their early 20's on up. We have had to work out a few bugs, such as generational references that, if not from that time, don't make sense and the various ways to get work done. I find I enjoy their company AND I am glad to get home to my boomer buddy.

As to what younger generations know or don't know, I tend to wait to be asked, then tell how the world looks through my eyes. And if no opening is there, why bother. It might just cause more anxiety in younger folks, and they seem to have enough in today's world as it is. But the ones who really see me and truly want to know, they add value to my life and just maybe, I add a little to theirs!

I wish my parents would have told me - perhaps not so much what it was like to be their age, but when they needed, or just wanted, help. I still cringe when I remember this: They'd called me and my sister to tell us that the sump pump had failed and the basement was flooded. I ran over there, only to find they had already cleaned it all up - they'd finished the job before they made the call. I was annoyed--Why did they bother me? I called my sister and told her not to waste her time coming.
It wasn't until many years later that I realized they were hoping we'd just Be There, praising and empathizing. And I'm so sorry I didn't get it--but I didn't. I wish my mother would have said "Christmas/Easter is getting to be too much for me" - but she didn't. She stopped using the good china she loved, and the good silver, but it never occurred to me that she wanted someone else to do it, or asked us to please help her.
Without making it a sermon about age, we all can say "This is too hard for me to do unless you help."

Oh Ronni, I laughed out loud listening to your and Alex's discussion of the Elizabeth Taylor interview.

My own mother went through 5 husbands before I left home at 17 with the help of 3 dear High School teachers to become a nurse. Like Ms. Taylor, she actually married them all. When I stared 1st grade I would write the "new" last name on my lunch box, keeping it at my desk, so I could spell it right. :-)

In later life I wondered if a wedding was the only way she got to have a new dress. The 30s and 40s were hard years for everyone, and she had 7 kids. She always married men 4 or 5 years younger than her and then shaved off a few years on her marriage licences. I guess she was the original *cougar*.

In her old age she had no idea how old she was, but a niece into genealogy found her listed in the West Virginia census of 1902. She, like Ms. Taylor married one of them twice, and we know repeating the same behavior and expecting a different outcome is always foolish. After that she didn't bother marrying #6 & #7. She was a strong, opinionated, and interesting lady and in spite of it all, lived to be 96.

I can say, she made me what I am today....monogamous ! Just one husband (a keeper) for 56 years.

First of all, no one in my family lived as long as I am living; therefore, no one could have told me what it was going to be like.

Had they been able to I probably wouldn't have believed them. How can we possibly explain the physical pain and discomfort until its experienced? Even though my daughter witnesses what old age is like by watching me I doubt that she believes it will happen to her.

Each generation has its joys and bad times and I am sure many elders romanticize the good times of their youth and forget the stress and problems they went through.

Yes, we can tell the younger women that their hair will migrate to parts of their body where they don't want it, that the hair on their head will thin and their waistlines thicken, etc. but the extreme physical changes that change your life are hard to explain, much less believe.

I can explain to a younger woman that she will tire more easily and that it progresses as she ages, or that she will no longer be able to do most of the things that she can now do so she will understand that I am not shirking my part when I need help, but the time for that is when it happens. Or so it seems to me.

Yeah, what younger woman would believe that some day it might be hard, and painful, to turn her head from side to side?! I probably wouldn't have believed it either--until it happened to me a year or so ago. I've had lower back problems (incl. 3 surgeries) most of my life and had an active life anyway, but I didn't sign up for this on top of the predictable physical problems getting old can entail. Perfect timing, too--just as the Feds intimidate our docs so they're afraid to treat pain!

Limited energy ? That's me at 79 alright. I did manage to have a tea party/birthday celebration for one of my car-pool friends in February. There is only 4 of us so the prep wasn't bad - just 2 days after the cleaning ladies had been here, and I purchased the treats....we do not use white sugar, or eggs, or oil so even though I have plant based recipes, they do not inspire second helpings when everyone's palate is used to the SAD (standard American diet) full of SOS - (sugar, oil and salt).

Husband and I just returned from a 19 day cruise/tour of South America and it was too long - but we managed OK. The overnight flight on our return took it out of us plus the time change as well which always affects me adversely.

I have never been overweight (125 lbs, at new height of 5'3" )but will need hip replacement surgery sometime soon due to my arthritis. When I get tired at night I tend to be pessimistic about how I have slowed down, but I always feel better in the bright light of morning sunshine, fortunately something we have a lot of in middle coastal California.

I remind myself of my mother because now, when getting up from the couch I shuffle my stiff old body in a bent over posture until I can straighten up and that is just like she used to do. She was not as active as I still am however, and died at 83 of a massive stroke.

To conclude I am also an introvert like so many on this End-UP and need quiet days between any activity, and we do not entertain but go to the kids' houses to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas....we had our turn, now it is theirs. When I complain of aches and pains, my daughter, 53, tells me about her's and all her friends' injuries from hiking, volleyball, and surfing... they are all athletic.

Yes, so often when we talk about how difficult something is now, we aren't grumbling. Like Mary Jameieson's parents with the sump pump, we're looking for a bit of well-deserved applause.

"It was so hard, you have to understand, it really was very hard, much harder than when I was your age, but I did it anyway. I managed it!"

But, you know, it's not fair to expect young people to guess that. Nor should Mary feel guilty. Sometimes we do need help, sometimes we only want sympathy, and sometimes -- a pat on the back. They don't have the experience yet to figure it out. We should just come right out and tell them which we mean.

I used to jump up and run around and do all those things. But, you know, it doesn't bother me now to let the young ones step up and do the driving, run to the store, move the furniture, carry the suitcases. I don't feel like I have to be in control anymore. Maybe I've become a Type B in my later years.

It took a long time for my head to realize my body would no longer follow it around like a puppy. While my mind wanders, my body sits back an laughs at it.
Also, what Alex said about some marriages is correct and really hit home. My wife and I ruined a beautiful friendship by marrying.

Regarding entertaining, in my 40's I realized it was getting to be too much for my folks. I took over. Now in my 70's, I get most of needed foods etc. in the house and my nephew and family take over. Cook, cleanup etc. I become a guest! My nephew is like a son and knows me well. I can't nor do I want to do it all. They all love visits, vacations to my waterfront home in Maine. It's become a deal, you come, you do it all :-)

Following so many posts, suffice it to say that it is pure delight to see you and hear you. You leave me craving more video time with you. Bless the both of you.

I'm happy I'm not the only one who has lost the vitality I once had, though I'm in very good health at age 69-1/2. My husband & I used to give annual summer parties for the entire extended family & friends, from my age of late 20s through early 50s, then stopped. What work! I finally retired, voluntarily, from nursing 3 years ago, though could have kept working. I did so, because I'd rather have less money and good health in my leisure retirement years. Great post, by the way! This website is my virtual spiritual read.

That awesomely great infernal internal thermostat. Jeez, I could do a swan dive into the sweat pools between my boobs at night.

Ronni, after watching this video with you and Alex, I just have to say you simply "glow". Your skin, your eyes, you smile - just beautiful. So, whatever else is going on, you radiate joy.

We love you.

CP

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