My Turn: Here’s what I’ve learned after age 80
I recently celebrated my 85th birthday. I feel the same inside, but I notice people are beginning to treat me differently – almost as if old age is contagious. There are plenty of times I want to be recognized as an 85-year-old, but never as an old woman.
Twenty years ago the fortune in my cookie at a Chinese restaurant told me to “be kind to people older than you – you’ll be their age someday.” I kept that fortune on my refrigerator until it was yellow and flaking. Now that I am that older person, I realize there was something left out of the fortune. What it failed to say was how great it is to be older. The older I get, the more I appreciate a good conversation and I’ve earned the right to be feisty.
My childhood began with the stock market crash and ended with World War II. Despite those dismal conditions I was a carefree child. I took to the trees with a Tarzan yell, played football with the neighborhood boys and hiked in the woods. In the 1940s society’s thinking forced me to conform, but the feeling of the wind in my hair as I flew through the trees wasn’t gone – just lying dormant. I knew I’d find that spirit again.
When I turned 80, my spirit enjoyed a rebirth. Five o’clock happy hours have never seemed so happy; seeing life through a glass of good wine is an excellent thing. What are the biggest things I’ve learned after 80?
∎ I must not take myself too seriously.
∎ My spirit is ageless.
∎ Aging is an education in itself.
∎ Growing old is a journey into simplicity.
∎ My life has become less cluttered.
∎ I discovered myself.
∎ I can be outrageous.
∎ I can be funny or profound.
∎ I can set an example for younger people and family members.
It’s a time of enrichment – a time of creativity and a time of challenge. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
(Mary Lou Fuller lives in Concord.)