Friday, April 05, 2013
What it's like to get old
That photo, above, is a picture of the aging journey. Starting at the left is my great-grandmother, Cora Shelton, a paragon of virtue, pillar of the Swink, Colorado Methodist Church, signer of the prohibition abstinence pledge. She was the quilter, from whom, perhaps, my quilting genes descended. She and the Methodist ladies met weekly to make quilts to send to the missionaries and heathens in Africa. I have often wondered if there are stashes of depression era quilts secreted away in huts in darkest Africa to this day. Cora, who homesteaded in Colorado, lived late into her '90s and was a pioneer woman for sure.
Next is my grandmother, Clarice. She was a bit of a wild child, who didn't sign the pledge, hated the name Clarice and preferred to be called "Tresa." I was named for her—sort of. As you can see, she was a fashion plate. Having little money for most of her life, she sewed most of her own clothes and they were outstanding! She was a divorced, working mother for most of her life and she worked hard, but I seldom saw the serious look above. Life was endlessly entertaining and she had a deep, cigarette raspy, hooty laugh that was truly hilarious. She taught me to sew doll clothes and made sure I finished the seams and made a hat to match each outfit. Hats were kind of a big deal with her. She never seemed old until the very end when she got very ill. Then she quickly faded away. Illness was never anything she had much patience with.
Next, Betty, my beautiful mother, only 20 years old in this photo. Whip smart, first person in her family to graduate from college, she never got old. She died at 72, but never seemed old to me. It still shocks me that she is gone. She was creative and busy and involved in everything and interested in everything. She was a force to be reckoned with, kind and compassionate and a hard act to follow, but my biggest fan and staunchest supporter.
And the baby, as you've guessed, is me, just a few days old. And now I am probably closest in age to great grandmother Cora, as she was in the photo. Now, that is sobering. I think about being old, but not much. I think that is the surprise. I guess some people my age are pretty obsessed with their age—either desperately seeking to escape the imagined stigma and image, or sadly accepting their roles as "old ladies" but really, for me and most of my friends, it isn't worth worrying or thinking about. Beth and I went to lunch to celebrate my birthday today. The order taker asked us if we wanted the "senior citizen plate." We looked at each other in disbelief and shock. "Uh, NO!" was the horrified answer!
So, what is it about—this getting old? A few physical challenges, but I am still the same person I was at 20 and 40—maybe more relaxed, more amused and less stressed by life and ready for another day, every day. Those women, up there in the photo were good models for me. Each one different, but each one truly her authentic self to the end. I hope that is what it is like to get old. If so, bring it on!
—as if I had a choice.