Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened. —Terry Pratchett
I started out in life thinking old people were just people who were old. Some were gruff and aloof, like my maternal grandfather who made no attempt to speak to me in English or even his native Italian. Some were doting and nervous, like my paternal grandmother who hallucinated Satan on a regular basis. And some were just nice. But only one, my maternal grandmother, was special to me. My nana. She was special because she took an interest in teaching me rather than just feeding and clothing me. I wasn’t just a doll to her. Even though she didn’t speak a word of English, she took me everywhere she went, showed me how she did things, and scolded my mother when she was an airhead about her children.
I never thought of old people as icky. They were part of my life, just like different nationalities and races. They walked shamelessly on the beach, all their scars, folds, and jiggles revealed by modest bathing suits. They had earned the right to stop fretting about their appearance. Young and sexy were for the young and sexy. To be old was to enjoy life outside the confines of a Maidenform girdle. Many of them were Holocaust survivors. To be old was a miracle.
But they were definitely old. And I was definitely not.
Then, while I was maturing, the culture changed. Now we must hold off looking old even if we have to carve ourselves up to do it. So it’s no surprise that as I got older, I started to fear the signs of aging. What I’ve discovered now that I’ve come this far into the oldness is that it’s just another life-on-earth mindf**k. Because wrinkles. Weight. White hair. And something else…
When I encountered old people in my youth, I assumed they experienced themselves the same way I saw them—as old. But now I realize I had it backwards, and instead I experience myself as if I’m still young. Some days I feel jaunty, like in my twenties. Some days grown up and classy, like in my forties. But when I see my face in the mirror, I’m in my sixties! Mindf**k.
Next time some old guy smiles at you, realize that in his mind’s eye he’s probably seeing himself as the 17-year-old high school quarterback or 23-year-old Army Ranger he once was, rather than the kindly man with twinkling eyes and a triple chin that you see now. Inside ourselves remains the heart of our personality—who we are. Albeit tempered by all that life entails, it never truly changes.
My mother tried to tell me about this when she was in her seventies and eighties. Even though she’d slowed down somewhat, she still felt, as I do now, energetic and flexible enough to keep up with most of the activities that had always kept her days so full. She would say to my brother and me, “I don’t understand how I could be that person in the mirror. I still feel like I did when you were kids.”
I’m sure health has much to do with this, and those who suffer from illness might not share this experience. But that’s not about being old, that’s about being ill. If you remain healthy enough as you age, you’ll still feel mentally and emotionally intact. You’ll still possess that exuberance and zest that drives you out of bed to watch a beautiful sunrise, go fishing, meet your friends at the shooting range, or start a new business.
So as it turns out, we old people know that old is not the end. But because we can see it from here, we can savor each day (while avoiding well-lit mirrors). We can also study up on nutrition. Starting with the great information available at Selene River Press.
The most priceless information you’ll find on this site is free: the SRP Historical Archives. The old people who wrote that vast collection of articles, papers, and books are very wise. And very dead. But that doesn’t stop them! Every day, there they sit, stand, and generally mill about waiting for one of us to visit. Check them out. They have all the time in the world. We don’t.
Photo by Doc Searls