Enjoying the Sunset

       There are a lot of things about growing old that nobody ever prepares us for. Perhaps this is just as well, because we might want to forgo the experience altogether. For example, I had no idea my hair would grow thin. I have never been bushy-haired, but until I reached eighty, I had no worries about my scalp being adequately covered. It now requires some adroit combing on the part of my hairdresser and me, to keep little patches of pink from showing through my gray locks. This has caused me to develop a sympathetic feeling for such an unlikely person as Donald Trump. I am sure his hair-style is meant to camouflage his receding hair-line. Bizarre is better than bare, maybe.
     I had every intention of aging gracefully, but from just a purely physical standpoint, this is not feasible. Alas, even rising from a chair with an easy fluid motion is impossible to do when one’s knees have locked in a sitting position. The best one can hope for is to be able to push oneself upright without groaning. A positive-thinking friend of mine is of the opinion that giving voice to discomfort only serves to exacerbate the problem. Therefore, as Archie Bunker would have said, I “stifle myself.” I keep quiet about any twinges I feel. However, there is nothing I can do about the popping sounds my joints make.
     Once standing, the challenge is to keep from staggering or lurching about and bumping into things. I have become unbalanced. My equilibrium is something I once took for granted. Now, if I bend over suddenly, instead of stooping, (trying to spare my knees, you know) my body tends to want to flop further forward, like a weighted doll. So far, I haven’t fallen on my face, thank goodness, but I am learning to bend over slowly and cautiously.
     Then there is the matter of scrabbling. My organizational skills have evidently deteriorated, because I find it increasingly difficult to locate things in my purse. I tend to paw through the contents searching for my grocery list, or car keys or spare hankie. This is unsettling to my daughter who remembers that a dear, but dotty, relative was forever
rummaging distractedly through her purse or coat pockets for lost items and would sometimes haul everything out onto the nearest flat surface, the better to sort through it. For my daughter’s sake, I am making a serious effort not to scrabble.
     A friend with excellent posture sometimes briskly reminds me to “stand up straight.” She has even given me a recipe for how to do this: “Stand with your hands at your sides, then turn you hands palm forward and stick out your thumbs.” This works. I become a ramrod.  So now when I walk my dog, Nessie, I hook her leash around my arm and stride forth, palms out, thumbs extended. I am then perceived as a peculiar, but erect, old lady taking her exercise. Fortunately Nessie, a West Highland Terrier, is a very accepting kind of dog who doesn’t seem to mind appearing in public with me, no matter what I do.
     I have composed a kind of mantra for myself: Don’t groan, don’t scrabble, don’t slouch.
     Now at the end of the day, wearied by all the conscious effort it seems to require just to function and to maintain a presentable appearance, I relax on my deck with a glass of iced tea. I look out over my garden, which is exuberant with spring flowers. I think of my family, especially my son and daughter, who I not only love, but like very much. I consider the steadfast kindness of my friends and remember my adventure-filled life with a wonderful man. Suddenly, I feel I am almost floating. I am dazzled by the pure splendor of life itself. What a gift! I want to fall to my knees, creaky as they are, and, like Shakespeare’s lark, “sing hymns at heaven’s gate.” 
     Old age may not be graceful, I think to myself, but it is a time of grace. How marvelous it is to live in the present and be able to cherish what is past. Memory has softened sorrow and distilled joy. Colors are more vivid, the scent of honeysuckle is sweeter, love is easier to express, and more gratefully accepted. Poetry speaks with a clearer voice. The sunset hour is particularly beautiful.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Yvonne on May 31, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Loved this posting, Lucille, so well written, especially the adroit shift from humor to poignancy and gratitude. Thank you!


  2. Posted by Barbara Dabul on May 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Oh Boy.. I think of the “scrabbling in my purse” fear a lot now as my fingertips seem to lose their “item memory” and my purse bottom seems to find new holes for sequestering things! Tell Barbara to be more patient with this, and if it takes dumping all contents onto a horizontal surface, so be it!


  3. Posted by Pat on May 29, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Thanks for a lovely view of the sunset.


  4. Posted by Meg on May 29, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Thanks for sharing so honestly.


  5. Posted by marion on May 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    So well expressed, as always Lucille. And how wise you are to savor what you have rather than bemoan what you don’t.


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