Monday, August 24, 2015

Aging Gracefully...Or Disgracefully.

There's lots of stuff on the net these days about aging, isn't there? How to, how not to, or how to and look like you're not... or whatever. And as my Mum had her eighty-eighth birthday this week, I've been thinking about aging. And how one copes. And what the heck "aging gracefully" even means.

This is a shot of Mum's haul of birthday cards and flowers. I couldn't fit everything into one shot. I didn't have room for the plant from my cousin. Or the bag of creams and lotions from one sister's drugstore and the cozy shawl from the other sister. The cake from the across the road neighbour also didn't get in the shot. Or the bags of fresh farmer's market beans, carrots, tomatoes, and new potatoes from Mum's cleaning lady/friend/neighbour and my niece. Mum misses her vegetable garden a lot. Because, really, nothing tastes as good as tomatoes, or beans, or cucumbers picked fresh from your own garden. Or new potatoes. New Brunswickers are great potato lovers. That's the Irish in us, I guess.


It may seem funny to be getting vegetables for one's birthday. But really, at 88, as Mum says, what does she need? Except nourishing hand cream, a new cozy shawl, flowers, cake, and lovely fresh vegetables. And a good book. Or five. That was my contribution. A gift certificate to her favourite used book store, which she frequents as much for the banter with Gus, the owner, as for the books. He sighs and says, "Here's trouble," when we arrive, then mum threatens him with her cane. And the thought of Mum and Gus sparring, albeit in jest, always reminds me of the poem "Warning" by Jenny Josephs.

Warning
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
                                                             With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
                                                         And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

That's not all of the poem, but you get the jist. We're not that big on aging gracefully in my family. Disgracefully is more our speed. Like the woman in Jenny Joseph's poem.... we don't care to act our age.

My grandmother Sullivan did not age gracefully. This is a shot of Grammy when she was eighteen, in 1917.



This is a shot taken at my sister's wedding. That's my mum on the left. My sister's new grandmother-in-law in the middle; her Swedish husband's grandmother, or Mormor, was ninety-two. And that's Grammy Sullivan on the right, holding Mormor's hand. One didn't speak English and the other had no Swedish, but they hit it off somehow.



This is Grammy at the reception. Not sure how many glasses of that red wine she'd had, but when someone wanted to take her picture, she donned my discarded bridesmaid hat (I hated that damn thing) and folded her hands like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. I love this picture.


And just like her mum, my mum is aging disgracefully. Not acting her age at 88. Mum does not drive. But in her seventies she learned to drive the tractor and she and my stepfather got the hay in together for years after that.



Mum first learned to use a computer at 84. She reads my blog (and she's probably going to kill me when she sees that shot above) and 'googles' regularly. Now at 88, she does her darnedest to keep moving. Every morning she does her leg exercises, then puts her Eddy Arnold CD on very loud and gets on her treadmill. Go Mum!

Don't get me wrong. Aging has its challenges. Painful arthritis. Loneliness at times. Watching friends and family go. Mum lost two brothers in one week, this spring. But she keeps on keeping on, as best she can. She swears in public when she can't get her feet to go where she wants them or when her cane gets caught in the grocery cart. Gives herself a shake when she's feeling down. And then maybe puts on her old sunhat and does a bit of weeding in her flower beds.


So aging gracefully... what does that mean, anyway? I certainly don't know. But I do know this, that contrary to media hype, aging gracefully isn't really about keeping that smooth, wrinkle-free complexion into your seventh decade. Or worrying about "age appropriate dressing" and whether or not one is too old to wear mini-skirts... or pink pants.

I just know that as per family tradition, when I'm in my eighties, I'll probably start wearing floppy 70's bridesmaid hats and listening to Eddy Arnold. And hopefully I'll have inherited some of the aging disgracefully gene. I mean, I already swear in public, so there's a good chance.

If you get a minute check out this lovely  video from the creators of the CBC radio show "Wire Tap." Advice from nine year olds to ninety-five year olds on aging gracefully. It will definitely make you smile.



Linking this post with All About You- Link PartyThursday Blog Hop, and Style Focus.


31 comments:

  1. I love this. Your blog has been a gift. Thank you.
    KS in Kansas

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    1. You're welcome! And thank-you for reading.

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  2. The video is wonderful -- as is your mother from the sound of it! Lucky you!

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    1. Mum and I both loved that video. Wish CBC were not cancelling Wire Tap.

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    2. You made my day! The video was a hoot!

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  3. You have a great way of writing around the subject to make it more meaningful , making your mums birthday interesting for us all . She must be proud of you & your blog . Happy birthday to her , it's obvious where you got your long legs from . Loved the video too .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. You always know just what to say to make me smile.

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  4. Thanks for that video. It was AWESOME. Sort of like you.

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  5. I loved your sweet story of aging disgracefully. I think the best way to age is however we can! Arthritis pain does get to me, but I refuse to let it stop me from doing whatever I want.

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    1. That's the secret, I guess, not letting it hold you back. Thanks for reading!

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  6. There is such variance in how people age - by genetics, by demographics, by personality and experience. Your mom is so fortunate to have her memory intact - the tractor and computers seem like extra bonus points:).

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    1. You're right, of course. But I also think we don't always see that even those who look like they're sailing through old age... are struggling.

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  7. I'm not sure I know the answer to aging gracefully, but what I do know is that as you get older it is important to live each day as though it is the best one of your life.

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  8. What a wonderful post! Thank you.

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  9. You know what I love about this post?

    Everything!

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  10. Hi Susan, Love this and so happy to meet you, my fellow make-over volunteer. I just signed up to follow you here. This will be fun!

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    1. Thanks Barbara. Same here. I'm off to check out your blog now.

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  11. Life is for living, not existing and sticking to some code about how we're "supposed to age"! I salute your mother, your grandmother, you and all the women who live life to the fullest, and who exalt in having strong personalities, whatever their age. Thank you so much for linking this lovely post up to #AllAboutYou

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    1. Thanks for hosting the link-up. Definitely lots of strong personalities in my family...haha.

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  12. Beautiful article! TFS. I have never understood what 'Aging Gracefully' means. I don't think anyone has ever been able to define it. Sometimes I think it just means 'Going out quietly, with dignity'. And I don't like that at all. And I also despise the term 'Age Appropriate Dressing'. Every time some one uses that phrase, I just cringe. It's so shameful sounding.

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    1. Thanks for reading Amy. I sometimes wonder why age appropriate only seems to apply to women of a certain age.

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  13. I love this post. That poem is amazing; I've read it long ago, but had completely forgotten about it, so thank you for refreshing me. I intend to age disgracefully too... my clothes get more adventuresome as the years go by, and that's just how I want it. xx

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    1. It is a great poem isn't it? I used to give it to my grade nine class to read after we had discussed their preconceived ideas of "old people."

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  14. This is awesome!! You're Mum sounds like a great gal. I swear in public too, so there may be hope for me yet! Thanks for sharing this gem with us on #stylefocus!

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  15. What a darling post. Love those grandmas. xxoo

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  16. Hats off for this article. Aging doesn't have to be a grueling experience. We can all age gracefully with physical activity, choosing to eat healthy and having a positive mindset.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.