You’re Not Too Old

“I’m too old,” a friend said to me when I asked her to go with me to the (gym). “What do you mean you’re too old?” I asked. “I’m almost 73,” she said, “and when you get to be my age, you can’t do the things you use to do.”

I’ve heard that mantra from people younger than me, “I’m old.” They talk almost obsessively about their age. I wonder if it’s an excuse not to try anything new. When one says one is old, what exactly does that mean?

“I’m old. I’d just rather sit in front of the TV, and watch the world go by, content in my suffering.” Satisfied to live vicariously?

Does it mean one is ready to give up on life, sit down and wait for death? Have they stopped living? Not interested in exploring new areas? Close minded, stuck in the past; unable to accept changes?

Does that mean all the aches and pains remind one of ones age. And prevents them from trying something new?

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” one friend said when I tried to get him to accompany me to a class.   Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. But the dog has to be interested in learning.

From the moment of our birth, we age. Yes, I admit that there are certain stages in our lives when significant changes take place; Going from a baby to a toddler, from preteens to teenager, from a teenager to a young adult, a young adult to an adult, middle age, elderly. Granted, as we age we must endure new aches and pains almost daily. However, if we focus only on those aches and pains, it prevents us from being open. And being open allows us to experience life’s riches.

There are many advantages to growing older. My list includes:

1.  I don’t have to compete for attention from the opposite sex.

2.  I wear what I like, comfort takes priority over trends.

3.  I’m comfortable with myself and with my decisions.

4.  I can stop and smell the roses if I choose.

5.  I’m like a child, my mind is open to new vistas and I’m willing to explore.

Despite my age, I feel young though for the younger person, I’m considered ancient. My body has sagged, wrinkles invade; I’ve got little aches and pains from time to time. I may be invisible to the young/younger, however, I don’t center (focus) on being old. I’m aware of the things I can no longer do. But there are so many things I want to learn, places I want to go, that I don’t have time to think about age.

Tribute to My Brother on Father’s Day

When he was young, my big brother was incorrigible. He did all sorts of things, so much so that my father and mother couldn’t handle him.  Because they worked, they were unable to supervise him as they wished. He was a wild colt, doing whatever he wanted. He bullied us younger siblings, played hooky from school, stayed in the street long after he was supposed to be at home. Seeing my parents’ plight, our favorite aunt stepped in and took him to stay with her.  Not having children of her own, she allowed him to do whatever he chose at her home.  While we were not allowed to touch her walls for fear of leaving fingerprints, he could climb all over the furniture without once touching the floor. In her eyes, he could do no wrong; She spoiled him.
Whenever he’d return home to our small apartment, we children trembled in fear.  My sister, younger brother and I would plan how to get even for the mean things he’d do to us.  One example, he would sit in front of our small TV, and open an umbrella so we kids could not see the screen. Once he closed my younger brother in the sleeper couch as a joke; our parents did not think it was funny. Even school couldn’t tame him.  When he was still a teenager, he dropped out and joined the Air Force. He fought in the Korean War and was stationed in Japan where he wanted to stay. By the time he returned home, he was a man. Service had leavened him.
When my father was alive, our home was the center to which not only his wife and children, but also his sisters, brother, cousins and in-laws gathered to sort out their problems. Daddy was the patriarch; our home, a refuge. After his death, Big brother inherited that mantle. Though married with a family of his own, he was called upon to help other family members. We all knew we could depend on him. He opened his home to us whenever we visited or needed a place to stay, and, like Daddy, he gave wise counsel.
As an adult, I began to see my brother in a different light. Beneath the surface of this strong, quiet man was a connoisseur who sought beauty in objects he found in outlet stores, and antique shops along downtown Manhattan and in plant nurseries. He constructed a fantastic garden in his backyard filling it with beautiful and rare plants of all colors and sizes.  He loved music, especially blues, and poetry. When he was young, he loved to draw. His love of art expanded while he was in Japan.  Not just a loving husband and father, he was a leader. He became a 33rd degree Mason.  From the obstinate young man who terrorized his siblings, my brother grew into a man I greatly respected and admired. I will always remember him for his kindness, generosity, and patience.  Thanks, Sis. for your help.

A Smile

There are some people who when you look at them you would think they were always in a bad mood. The look on their faces signal, “Don’t bother me. Don’t say anything to me. I’m not interested.” Not my mother. My mother’s smile would light up a room. It was her natural expression. I can’t remember her ever frowning much. I’m not saying she went around with a smile on her face all the time. It’s just that she had a pleasant face, a gentle face that appeared to the outside world that she was approachable, non-threatening. Some people when they see a person smile take it for weakness and get set to take advantage. My mother related once that her co-workers would sometimes get annoyed at her because of her smile. “Don’t you ever get mad?” They’d ask her. Of course she got angry, particularly at things she deemed unjust or unfair. On her job, she was a shop steward, a union representative. Co-workers would come to her if they had a grievance against management and she would represent them. And she taught her children to stand up for their rights. She was not a push-over. But it was her smile that I will always remember. My mother’s smile was her legacy to me.

In a world filled with disaster – earthquake in Haiti, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, how can I write about smiling? Am I being  naive? I don’t think so. On the one hand, a smile can be used to seduce, to disarm, or to manipulate. On the other hand, an honest smile, one that comes from the heart, can brighten a person’s day. No matter how bad I feel, or if I’m having a horrible day, when someone smiles at me, for that moment, my mood lightens. A smile can connect one person to another as if to say, “I understand.” It can signal that a person is receptive, approachable. Sometimes when I’ve smiled at others, I’ve noticed frowns briefly disappear. I have a friend who always has a serious expression on her face. When I first met her, I kept my distance thinking she was unfriendly. But then I saw her smile. It was radiant. It changed my perception of her. A smile is a reminder that we should not take life so seriously and that we are not alone. There is much to cry about, but there is also much to smile about. When I wake up to a new day, or look at nature, a flower, a tree, a child’s face, innocent  and curious, or when I hear a person’s laughter, I can’t help but smile.

Stepping out of your comfort zone

I remember when I was a little kid, and like most kids I loved to explore, to venture into unknown areas, to discover new things and try to learn how they worked; that is until Mama or Daddy slapped my hands to keep me from harming myself. That adventurous spirit continued into my teenage years sometimes leading me to take chances, some reckless, some not so, depending upon the influence of my friends. I would venture into places where I didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, no harm resulted. As a young adult, the first big chance I took was when I moved away from family and friends and across the country to a state where I didn’t know anyone and did not have a job waiting. I had saved a little money to tide me over for a few weeks until I could find a place to stay and employment. (Jobs in those days were plentiful.) Somehow I managed to survive, but as time went by, responsibilities and obligations set in. And with those obligations and responsibilities came fear leaving me little time to think about much less follow any adventurous nature.

Many older people have traveled down the same road. In our youth, with no obligations or responsibilities hindering us from following the call of the wild except maybe family pressures, we take chances. Then, as we become adults, our fears change and in some instances grow. Not the childhood fears of the bogyman or the teenage fears of not fitting in, but adult fears that spring from the need to support a family, to find a job that satisfies, to raise our children to be loving, responsible adults, to make enough money not just to get by but not to have to worry about paying bills. With so much to consider, it’s no wonder our spirit for adventure becomes buried. When those responsibilities have been met, the children grown, and we settle down to enjoy our mature years, sometimes another fear invades our senses. We want to explore but we feel we must know the outcome before we venture out of our comfort zone. The need to think ahead gets in the way of answering that call to adventure. By adventure, I don’t mean doing something dangerous or life-threatening. I mean finding that spark that you had when you were younger, trusting in your judgment and following your heart. What do you have to lose? There is nothing sadder than regrets; wishing you had done something, but had let the opportunity go by. Keep in mind that life is fuller and more rewarding when we step out of our comfort zone.