Do you see birthdays as another step closer to the grave?
I was out to dinner last night with a group of nine seniors. We ordered a surprise dessert for one who was turning 79 today. After it came and we sang Happy Birthday, the person sitting next to the birthday girl said, "I turned 85 last week!"
Compliments flowed about how great she looks (she does) and the perils of aging poorly were discussed. And yet...It was refreshing to hear women of a certain age talk about and perhaps even show a little pride in their age when so many times people seem depressed by getting older.
I have never felt old age was promised to me. My father died at 44 and my mother at 72. I've lost four siblings, the oldest of whom was 66 when he died. My grandmother lived to be 96 and my aunt to 92, but that seems exceptional to me. For me, birthdays are something to be celebrated, no matter the age. When people seem upset by turning another year older I have a tendency to remind them that the alternative is to be on the under side of the sod.
Aging is inevitable and I know sometimes it can seem like an endless round of doctor's visits about body parts that have begun to betray you after years of faithful service. Memory loss can also be frustrating, not only to you but to those around you who have already heard the same story 15 times. But oh, what a difference the right attitude can make! When you were a baby did you complain becasue somebody had to carry you everywhere? No, you reveled in the body contact with your mother or father who toted you like an appendage. Did you get frustrated because "Mama" or "Da" was all you cold manage to communicate? No, you made yourself understood...somehow.
Try lookng at aging in a different light. Be glad of the closeness that results from someone offering you their arm for support. Tell that story 15 times. Maybe that will result in someone younger remembering the story to pass on to another generation 30 years from now. Search for the word that seems to be on the tip of the tongue. You may find a new way to communicate what you wanted to say.
As for those failing body parts. I am reminded one of my seniors who was diagnosed last year with breast cancer. Instead of saying, "Why me?", her attitude was, "How lucky am I? I've lived 72 years without cancer." Wow!
Finally I come back to my dear friend Joanna who will turn 97 in two weeks. She has an attitude that we should all envy and emulate. I was going to tape a community access program about what's happening at the senior center a couple of weeks ago. I called her and asked her to accompany me. She is extremely modest and does not like to draw attention to herself, but when I explained why I wanted her to go with me, she said she would. On the ride to the studio she confessed she was nervous, but said, "I'll try anything!" I love that at 96 and counting she is still willing to try new things.
Old age may not be promised to me, but I will be grateful for every birthday I celebrate, try to keep the aches and pains to myself, celebrate my laugh lines and keep trying new things. That's the way to age gracefully.
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