The senior years can be a time of creativity—and surprises.
"God bless you.”
That’s the greeting I get now because of my birth date.
The lady at the bank asks, “What is your date of birth?”
“April 6, 1922.”
“God bless you!”
An hour later, the scheduling nurse at my doctor’s office asks, “And what is the date of your birth?”
“Well, God bless you!”
Then the cashier at the supermarket who checks my ID. And the lady at Motor Vehicles—my fourth “God bless you” in one day.
God, are you listening?
Of course, I know why they’re God-blessing me. I’m part of a population that never existed—or barely did—until the medical wizards propped us up with their CT scans and x-rays and needles and knives. From an average life span of about 49 years at the turn of the 20th century to a whole population of people like me who parent balding sons and menopausal daughters, the script is being rewritten.
This is all about putting some zing into your eighties, nineties, and—yes—hundreds. My recently departed (as she approached her 103rd birthday) friend Bertha Campbell was light-years ahead of people half her age and made it clear that she could see me at teatime but never for lunch: “The people I lunch with depend upon me to help them, you see.”
I’m sure she got God-blessed a lot, too.
“God bless you” is important because of what follows. If the blesser is middle-aged, what follows is “What’s your secret?”
The thing is I don’t have any secret. I’m more than happy to share everything I’ve learned about making the most of being an old lady.
I honed my expertise in Old Ladies 101 when, after a 57-year marriage, I found myself living alone at age 79. I had never lived by myself before. In my day, you married right out of Mama’s house; only bad girls lived away from home.
What I discovered right off at age 79 was the weirdness of being an I instead of a we. That’s good and bad. Bad for all the obvious reasons but good, surprisingly, because for the first time in my life I was no longer my parents’ daughter or my husband’s wife. I was Gloria—free to explore my options.
What were those options? A surrender to my children’s good intentions? A widow’s lament?
Or, to heed my favorite cliché, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
This time, there were no suitors at the door on Saturday night proffering gardenia corsages and escorting me to cars borrowed from their fathers. It was up to me to get out there and stir up the dust.
Next: Knocking on Borden's door