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

Falling for Fall


It is here–the time of year that I don’t want to miss and if I’m not observant I will do just that–miss it.  It is fall in Gilbert, Arizona.  Not a blinding, energetic burst of color fall, but a subtle, rather drab, extremely un-showy fall.  And I love it.  I remind myself every time I go down Lindsay Road between Baseline and Guadalupe to pay attention and soak it in because this is the only fall I’m going to get this close to home.

I know what real autumn looks like.  I just returned from Ohio where the whole state was putting on a fall extravaganza in burning reds and simmering oranges.  It was the kind of fall that says, “Look at me!  Aren’t you in awe of my beauty?  Let the ‘wows’ begin!”  And I did.  I “wowed” at every turn in the road.  Over and over I cried, “This is so beautiful.  This feeds my soul.  Don’t you just love it?” to which my companions shrugged and continued talking about the NFL Hall of Fame.

When aspiring young people tell Barbara Walters that they want a career like hers, she answers, “Then you have to take the whole package.”  For me, glorious autumns come with undesirable whole packages which include harsh winters and difficult weather.  A dramatic fall didn’t keep Hurricane Sandy from recently wreaking devastation.

So the lure of seasonal brilliance isn’t enough for me to take the whole package and Ohio’s lovely fall doesn’t take away from my own reserved and undemonstrative Gilbert fall.  I find joy in the greens turning slowly into russets and tans and browns and bronzes.  My fall does its best to please me and I don’t feel neglected by God’s paintbrush.

My unobtrusive autumn is a reminder that something doesn’t have to be the very best to be enjoyed and appreciated.  I don’t have to be as popular as Wayne Dyer to be a speaker of philosophy.  I won’t reach millions, but I will reach some.  I don’t have to sing, “In My Daughter’s Eyes” as well as Martina McBride before I can learn all the words and sing to my grandchildren.  I don’t have to be the head of a great organization to serve and give and help in my own narrowed circle.  There is room for the “kind ofs”, the “sort ofs”,the “almosts”, the “somewhats”.  There is room for me and there is room for you, doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.  And we can find joy in the doing.

When discouragement sometimes wraps itself around me like a shroud, when I feel dispirited that I’m not the showy, performing one, I think of my Gilbert fall and I am content–sort of.

Falling for Fall: Audio: Read by the Author

Angel Mother

I used to squirm on Mother’s Day when I heard the rather sentimental speaker speak of her Angel Mother.  Angel Mother!  That term will never be given to me, I thought.

It is highly unlikely that I’ll hear those words in reference to myself, but I have come to realize that time has a way of smoothing the edges of existence.  It is as though we live life in full glaring sunlight without any sunglasses; but we look back on life with the help of protective eyewear that softens the blaze of reality.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember my own mom speaking of her mother as an “Angel Mother.”  But as Mom grew older, she’d say things like, “I wish you had known my mother. She was an angel!”

I actually did know my Grandma Erikson.  But by the time I came around she was harried by dementia and would stand behind doors to scare us or drink from the syrup bottle or walk out the front door to visit her sister, Louie, who had been dead for 60 years.  I didn’t think of Grandma Erikson as an angel.

“She never raised her voice,” Mom continued.  “She had such a beautiful garden and kept the house so clean.  She was an angel,” she repeated.

While I was growing up, I wouldn’t have referred to my mom as an Angel Mother.  In fact, I stored every one of her slips of the tongue or, as I viewed, grievous actions against me in a private place in my soul.  I would pull them out often and nourish them with angry thoughts.  But now that I am older, I am amazed at what a wonderful mother she was.  Her glowing attributes considerably outweigh any faults I may have perceived.  I was blessed beyond deserving to have such a great woman be my mother.  And it is easy to say, “I wish you had known my mother.  She was an angel.”

Perhaps time will soften the memories of my children.  I hope they will someday be able to empty their own jars of injustices they felt I hurled at them and refill those jars with sweet remembrances.  And maybe they will be able to say in some distant age, “I wish you had known my mother.  She was an angel!”

Angel Mother : Audio Read by the Author