Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Young people seldom worry about getting older, because those sunset times seem light years away. In fact, in the United States, there is an absolute fear of anything resembling aging, be it a gray hair on the head or a wrinkle on the forehead. There are so many wrinkle-removing creams out there, one could provide oil for every car in the country. And there are many surgical procedures to fight against aging. You can have yourself tightened up, shrunk, plumped up, lifted up, or sucked out.

After the first initial shock of meeting this stranger in the mirror who has a vague resemblance to your young self, getting old is not so bad. One has the freedom to be whatever one wants to be...whether it is being giddy, cantankerous, sweet, docile or absolutely impossible. Whatever you do, it is blamed on age. "Poor old thing, look at her smear lipstick!"....or "Poor thing. She's just tired. You can't expect much, at her age!"

This is wonderful, in a way, because if your faculties are intact, you are well aware of this misplaced pity and use it to your advantage. Plus, if you really want to convince them you are suffering from age-related dementia, you can whack at people with your cane and utter some foul language, and not even be arrested. Young people disturb the peace. Old people just fade into La La Land.

The hardest part of getting older is seeing how old everyone else is getting. You are behind your own face and those wrinkles can't be seen without a mirror, but when you see the ravages of age on the faces of other people, it is shocking. You almost always feel that they look older than you do. And, if you are at all uncertain of this, just ask someone close to you, "Do I look as old as Mary?" Or Pete or Sarah or Joe. They'll never say yes. It's guaranteed. They might be frightened of that cane, or they might be sparing your feelings.

I went to a class reunion once and it was like entering a roomful of strangers. Only after I peered into the faces of the guests did I recognize my old classmates. Man, those people looked old! Falling apart, most of them! Of course, I have a pang or two, here or there, too. A little trouble getting out of a chair. I have a few wrinkles, I will admit. Everything sags. Nothing is positioned where it used to be. Even my nose has lengthened. I hunch a bit, and shuffle, stubbing my toe on any throw rug in my path. But those are all minor. I'm in pretty good shape. I got out of bed this morning, didn't I?

When I was young and my mother was very old, she would call me to see if I was driving into town, because she needed some items from the grocery store.

"Sure, Mom," I would say. "I'm heading out in about an hour. I'll pick you up."

"Maybe you hadn't better," she would say. "You're probably busy. Maybe I should just wait until tomorrow."

"No, Mom, no problem. I'm not that busy. I need a few things myself. I'll pick you up!"

"I can easily wait until some other day. I'm not completely out of things yet. You don't need to go out of your way to get me."

"Mom, you are just a few blocks off the highway. It's not out of my way. I'll pick you up!"

This conversation would continue until I was practically begging for the privilege of picking her up and taking her to the store. It used to puzzle me, but now that I am older, I know about the testing we oldsters do. The more guilt we can load on those we know love us, the more we can be assured that they do love us. If I had said "Okay, Mom, we'll wait until some other day!", she'd have probably been devastated.

It is said that, soon now, Science will come up with a way to halt the process of aging. They can never stop people from getting old, but they can try to keep them from looking old. Conceivably, in the future, you will see people older than a hundred years who look like Angelina Jolie. Ninety year olds will look like starlets. The nursing homes will be filled with Bikini-clad Senior Citizens, breast implants thrusting beautifully from their skimpy string Bras. And Grandma will dance the night away with Grandpa, who looks about twenty-four.

If that happens, young people may finally allow us to have an opinion without saying, "Oh, Grandma, that's so sixties!" Perhaps not, though, because each generation thinks the one before is quite passe and not a little bit stupid. Young people are very smart until they get older and have their own very smart children. Then they get a little more stupid with each passing day.

My grandchild said to me the other day, "Grandma, when you wrote with feathers, what did you use for ink?" This proves that, the older you get, the older you look to the young. Even if you feel like you are twenty, there's no use. Young people will either think you are an old relic...most of the time...or a priceless antique...they need a loan.

So, as far as aging goes, you can't fight it. There comes a time in every life when even Botox won't help. So, don't fight it. Enjoy it. Swallow your fiber, flex your aching joints, and get on that dance floor. Show them there's life in those old, creaking bones! Show them the spirit is alive and willing, even though the flesh is about a foot lower than it should be.