Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………..March 2014


The other day Brad and I drove separate cars to a detailing shop so Brad could leave his car there to be detailed.  There was a slight problem owing to the fact that  Brad hadn’t brought the shop’s address or phone number and thought he could just find it.  But he couldn’t.  It was sort of my fault that he couldn’t find it because there was heavy traffic on Baseline.  Because Brad knows how much I hate to turn left when there is even a moderate amount of cars whizzing and honking by, he turned right which was very thoughtful since I was following him.  But that put him in unfamiliar territory as far as the detail shop was concerned and he couldn’t remember if it was closer to Broadway or Southern.  The lack of knowing made for several turns and backtracking.

Finally I called him (thank goodness, he remembered to bring his phone which isn’t always a given) and said I would just park somewhere and he could tell me where to find him after he knew exactly where he was going.  Trying to follow him in tight circles behind the wheel of a potential weapon didn’t seem like a very safe thing in my opinion.

“No,”  he said.  “It’s here somewhere.”

Finally he did find the detailer after stopping a couple of times and squinting at the road sign to see if it said Broadway or Southern.  And, by the way, which comes first—Broadway or Southern?  It’s funny how things like that escape your mind at times.  Again, I will take some of the responsibility for getting lost.  No, I will take a whole bunch of the responsibility, since my left turn phobia made him come at the shop from a different angle.  What’s a little more guilt added to the great weight of guilt that I insist on carrying everywhere I go?

When he finally left his car with the attendant and got into mine he was very frustrated.

“I don’t want to be old,” he said.  “That’s what an old man does: wanders aimlessly and slowly and shuffle-y looking for things.   I don’t want to act like that.”

“Neither do I,”  I said as I pawed through my purse, forgetting what the object of the pawing was.

“See,” he said.  “That’s what your mother used to do.”

“What?” I asked.

“The rummaging.  The rifling through your purse. That’s what your mother used to do.”

He was right.  I felt just like her as I pawed with seemingly no purpose.  A definite sign of aging.  What a pair we are, Brad and me!


The drawbacks of the aging process  hit me once in a while and I just have to vent.  I feel like Diane Keaton’s character in the movie And So It Goes when she splays her arms and says with an emphatic grimace, “I’m sixty-five.  Uuuuuuuuuu!!!”

I do not like growing old.  There must be a better way.  I know, I should be glad to still be here on this fabulous earth and I should enjoy every minute and relish the now.  But aging is a big deterrent to relishing the now.

The other day I found a hair on my chin.  A dark hair!!! What was that doing there?  I have always been blond.  How long had it been growing?  How many people saw it before I finally did?  What would make a hair grow on a chin that has never had a hair before?  Weird things happen as you grow old.

Another sign of my own aging happened when I bent over to pick up something off the carpet.  I couldn’t tell what it was and I turned it over and over until I felt my mother slipping into me again.  She had done that action often in her old age, turning something over and over in slow motion trying to determine what treasure was indicated by a scrap found on the carpet.

Slow motion is becoming more of a companion to me and not an amiable one.  What happened to my drive, my focus, my hitting the deck running?  And weight that used to roll off without much trouble has become attached to my middle and it seems to delight in giving me a backache.  Arthritic thumbs add to my annoyance.

If age was honored and respected and not snickered at, it would help a little.  This might be a good time to move to old-people-loving China.  Hopefully, Brad will go with me.

Gliding On

rocking chair

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I watched it go gliding in its blue refinery in the back of the trailer and something happened to me.  Tears welled and my heart swelled.  That was the rocking chair Brad got me for Mothers Day in 1999–the year I became a Grandmother.  It was a gift to rock my babies in and it was used and used until the cushions were as depleted as an airless balloon, but its gentle gliding motion never gave up on me.  It was a piece of my life moving on to make room for new and more serviceable things–like two heavy duty leather swivel rockers that also recline.

I’m not sure why I got so sentimental in that moment but I just stood watching as the trailer pulled away and the feeling overwhelmed me.  I have often been attacked by that nostalgic poignant feeling that is indescribable and, thankfully, usually fleeting.

That wasn’t the only treasure being pulled away from my life.  My mom’s folding wood table that had seen dinners and lunches for decades was keeping company with the chair.  It was too rickety for daily wear and would need more TLC than I have in me.  But to see it, too, riding down the street like a sovereign going to a guillotine was a little disheartening.

Bits and pieces of our lives are represented by things–just ordinary things, but they hold such meaning and memory.  Do you think when we get to heaven and review our life’s work, that we could enjoy some of those things again?–those things that meant so much in their short allotted time? The ballerina doll that could bend at the ankles so she could dance on her toes?  The yellow metal box that I used to keep crayons (pronounced “crens”) in?  The bracelet that Mom bought me for no reason at all?

Some things seem to have spirits.  They reach out and prompt us of times long past. They pull at our heartstrings and remind us that life has had many moments of joy and glory.

When I get very, very old, please don’t take all my possessions away.  Let me hold on to them and savor their memories until I, too, glide on to other things.

Curses, Spoiled Again!

Marmie Betts w-kids 045

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

One of my daughters and her husband had a chance to go on a great vacation if I could come up to their home in Utah to watch their five boys and one baby girl.  How could I ever say no to that?  So I went and for the most part things went really well.  I got a little frustrated when I couldn’t figure out how to get to the Hogle Zoo, but we found the Dinosaur Museum at Thanksgiving Point and that was a good enough substitute.

On our ride home, I noticed a store I wanted to peruse quickly, so I left the kids on the  store’s large front lawn and ran in and out of the establishment in about a minute.  As I was leaving and the clerk saw my absolutely beautiful children on the lawn, she made a comment that I’ve had to think about deeply ever since.  “What cute kids,” she said.  “I bet you spoil them rotten, don’t you?”

I looked at her quizzically, like I didn’t understand what she was talking about.  Spoil them rotten?  “No,” I said.  And that ended that pleasant conversation.

Why would anyone want to spoil their grand kids rotten?  I know it is just a saying and the clerk was only looking for something to chat about, but in reality I have no desire to spoil them.  I don’t have the energy, the money, or the inclination to do it.

Maybe it’s because I have 17 of the little darlings and if I spoil one I’d have to spoil them all.  Also, kids already have so much.  I’d add the word “today,” but that would make me sound like one of those people who always refers to the past as the good old days, and I don’t think they were.  But wouldn’t you say that most kids seem to have an overabundance of things?  You can give them a birthday present and by the evening they don’t even know where the pieces are and don’t really care because they have so many other presents to play with.   You could load them up with new clothes, which they’d welcome if they were the right brand, but mothers already have baskets full of dirty laundry and rooms strewn with pants and shirts and socks and shoes.

I love my grand kids.  They are precious to me.  I don’t want anyone spoiling them.  I have a grandmother friend who boasts of her spoiling.  “I let little Missy and Sonny have whatever they want when they’re with me–even candy for breakfast,” she says.  Not me.  I love teaching them and guiding them and helping them make right choices.   I think parents need all the help they can get to raise happy, moral kids.  And who is in a better position to help than grandparents?

As these little ones are getting older, my favorite thing to do is talk to them and find out how they think and what is going on at school and how they feel about things.  When I get to be with one of my fourteen year old grandsons and he’ll talk to me like a friend, I am ecstatic!

I love teaching these exceptional children–games, music, reading, math, and about our Heavenly Father who loves them.  I don’t do it as often as I’d like–teach them, I mean.  Sometimes when the teacher is ready, the student isn’t and vice versa.  But I’m working on it.  I want to give them loving memories that they can hold on to when life gets a little tough.

I am still learning to be a grandmother–the kind I’d like to be.  It takes time and planning.  Maybe by the time I’m a great grandmother I will finally be great at it.  But in the meantime, I don’t see any need for spoiling.



A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Eternity

Mesa Temple 2


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Just when I thought there was no more to write about, I did something stupendous–stupendously stupid.  I feel the capillaries in my face enlarge and a pink glow begins in my neck and travels up to my hairline when I think about it.  I’m hoping the writing of the incident will help me let it go and march forward into sanity, although that may be impossible.

Since my Dad had Alzheimer’s for seven years before it finally took him, and my mother had dementia that made her life and those who loved her miserable for a couple of rough years, keeping my mind throughout a long life doesn’t seem too probable.  However, each of my parents had siblings who lived well into their 90’s with tarp as a shack–whoops! I mean sharp as a tack–minds.  I have been counting on following those with the healthy minds since some of their DNA belongs to me.  But what I did was so crazy that the insanity road seems more likely.

Here goes:

We attended a beautiful wedding ceremony in the Mesa, Arizona, LDS Temple on Saturday.  While there we saw many friends who belong to one huge wonderful family who were attending a different wedding.  Because of the sacredness of the Temple, we are asked to take off our shoes and put on little white socks to go into the sealing rooms.  It was a crowded day and the cubbyholes that hold the set-aside shoes were quite full, but I found a place for my long black boots and a cubbyhole for my black coat.  I even put my name by each which I usually don’t take time to do.  I put on the provided socks and felt a great spirit of love and peace as I witnessed the Temple Wedding.  Had I known what I was about to do, I would have stayed in the sealing room for a long time.

After the ceremony, I needed to go to the bathroom before the ride home, so quickly went to where my boots and coat should have been.  I couldn’t see them.  Hmmmm.  I did see a black short coat in one of the cubbies and thought someone had selfishly moved my coat to make room for her things.  I grabbed it and put it on and in a bottom cubby were some black boots.

“Wow, people were being insensitive,” I thought, “moving my things around like that.”  On went the boots and into the bathroom went I.

While in the bathroom I felt a phone in a pocket of the coat and realized it was in an inside pocket.  I didn’t even know my coat had an inside pocket.  I pulled out the phone and saw that it wasn’t mine.  I had someone else’s coat!  I was mortified.

Just as I told a friend that I had taken the wrong coat, the coat’s owner–another young and beautiful friend–came toward me with my coat.  Thankfully, she was very understanding as I told her that I thought I was the only one who had worn a coat in 60 degree weather!  She showed me my name that I had placed with my coat.  That made me ponder.  If my name was with my coat, was my name also with my boots?  There in a bottom cubby were a pair of long black boots and alongside them was my name.  I was wearing someone else’s boots, too!

By this time I was surrounded by a group of laughing friends so I couldn’t nonchalantly take off the boots and replace them with my own.  They all knew that I had taken not only someone else’s coat, but someone else’s boots as well.

“Your boots are round toed and the others are square toed,” someone gently pointed out.  I have never been a stickler for detail, obviously.

The laughter continued–in a Temple-like way–but my own laughter was a bit hysterical.  Dementia?  Had it started already?

I can hardly breathe as I relate this story because that mishap took a walloping chunk of promise out of my future.  What other imbecilic things am I going to do before the last fragments of my life are over?

In one of my next essays, I am going to instruct my children on how to take care of their aging, demented mother.  They’d better read it!

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?


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!”

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?: Audio: Read by the Author