My Journey To “No, No, No, Not I!”
Elizabeth Willis Barrett
I jump on my bike early in the morning to beat the sun and the school kids who pointed at a friend of mine not too long ago with the exclamation, “Look at that old lady on a bike!” Since I am at least twelve years older than that “old lady,” I am eager to be on my way and back before any school kids point at me.
Old lady. I genuinely dislike that term. My son-in-law used it regarding an associate who is at least three years younger than I am.
“She is not an old lady!” I protest. But in his eyes and those of many others, she’s an old lady and so am I.
“I don’t want to be old,” I think as I ride along the canal. Aging has captured my mind excessively lately.
At lunch with friends that I’ve known and loved since Kindergarten, one says that now that she is past sixty, she is going to eat whatever she wants–just give in to the cravings and quit worrying about weight and waistlines.
“Aunt Bee was plump and everyone loved her!” she says.
“Aunt Bee?” I ask.
“You know. Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show.”
She has a point.
“Should I give in, too?” I wonder as I ride past two animated walkers.
The wrinkles and chicken wing arms are probably inevitable, but should I give in and let my belly become a fashion snuffing muffin top?
I feel as though no one has ever grown old before, that it is a phenomenon exclusive to me. When I take one of my grandsons to a movie at the San Tan Mall, I whisper, “One child and one Senior.” I wait for the extremely youthful cashier to say, “Senior? You’re kidding aren’t you?” But she never does.
At Bashas on Senior Wednesday, I say very softly, “Uh, would you give me the Senior Discount please?” That cashier doesn’t look astonished either.
“How old are you, Marmie?” my grandkids ask.
“My spirit is thirty-five,” I answer.
“Yes, but how old are you?” they rejoin.
I can’t say, “Sixty-three.” Sixty-three is so far beyond how I feel. I can’t believe I am that old. In seven years I’ll be seventy! How can that be? It was just a little while ago that I was crying about turning forty.
I refuse to give out early on this biking journey so I ignore the bridge that would cut my bike ride in half. I continue peddling and pondering.
Part of my aging pensiveness is due to last night’s comment from a dear sixty-four-year-old friend. “I’m checking out of life at sixty-five so I won’t have to go through really old age,” she says. “I’ve put in my reservation.”
I am stunned. Give up at sixty-five? I tell her she ought to at least change her reservation to seventy-five.
“Nope, can’t do it,” she says. “I’ve already bought my ticket and there aren’t any refunds.” Her eyes are twinkling but I think she’s serious.
Is it time to put in my reservation. I know we usually don’t have control over our own deaths, but maybe Heavenly Father honors death wishes.
Is it time to reel in all my unaccomplished goals that are sitting in the Lake of Life? What about time with my family, my beautiful family? Aren’t they worth a few years of wrinkles, stiffness and memory slumping?
Am I ready to give in, give out, and give up? As I cross the canal and head for home I have my answer. No! No! No! I won’t give in! I won’t give out! I won’t give up! I will accept my age enthusiastically and I will be the best I can be no matter what the numbers say. Maybe in a decade or so I will revisit this resolve. But for now I raise a mental fist to the air and in my mind I shout, “Here comes the old lady–the energetic, dynamic, impervious and joyful old lady! Make room!”