It’s Way Past Time for a Paradigm Shift About Aging

I don’t try to hide my age. As of this birthday, I’m seventy-nine as the photo at the top of this blog will confirm. That’s me with the blazing white hair. If that doesn’t do it, look closer and the chicken neck leaves no doubt.

A card from the Neptune society marked the occasion as well.

As I redeemed my free birthday sub, the server asked “21?” Not wanting my hidden curmudgeon to surface I just smiled and said “Bingo.”

As one ages, the filter between the mouth and brain make peace with one another and the mouth usually wins. Those of us who were born with a defective filter learn to moderate if we want to stay married, have friends etc.

This time the brain won over the mouth as I had a choice to make. Do I piss off the person who is preparing food I am about to consume, or do I suck it up and make some equally inane response?

I know she was trying to make nice, but when she asked what I got for my birthday, I bit my tongue. (I’m betting the server never comments beyond “Happy Birthday” to a twenty-something.)

She gives her mom gift cards for her birthday. I responded the movie gift cards are a treat. She said her mom doesn’t see well, refuses to wear glasses and doesn’t go to movies. She wanted to know if I can still see okay.

Good thing the order was complete because I don’t know how much longer my patience would have held out.

Then I considered, here is a young woman, probably working a minimum wage job, buying her mom gift cards and my inner mom kicked in.

She doesn’t know the best-kept secret about aging. As the clock ticks away and the numbers ascend, the essence of who we pretty much remain the same. If you were a smart axx at twenty-one, that doesn’t change. You ’ve perfected the skill by age seventy-nine.

So yes, she had a twenty-one-year-old waiting in line, but this time brain won over the mouth.


Mother’s Day and the “M” Connection

It occurred to me this Mother’s Day that my ancestor mothers names all began with the letter “M”.  Aside from the initial, these women shared few common traits, but each was a special mother in her own way.

Mattie, my maternal grandmother’s life was a testament to survival.

Her mother died when she was a teenager ending her potential for a better life. Her father remarried and abandoned her to the care of a stepmother who sent her to the fields to chop cotton.

Mattie married caring for her husband and ten children in appalling circumstances. Her rural shotgun shack had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. She cooked on a wood burning stove fueled by wood she chopped.  Clothes laundered outdoors in a cast iron pot with water she hauled from a well. Feeding chickens, milking cows, slopping pigs and sewing dresses for her daughters from feed sacks completed her workday.

Mattie was a reflection of this environment. As a child and the oldest of her twenty-one grandchildren, I never felt loved by her. I was wrong. As an adult, I realized the special teacakes she baked for me were the only way she knew how to tell me she loved me.

Marie, Mattie’s eldest daughter, was my mother.

As a child, coddled and catered, I was the beneficiary of my mother’s harsh beginning in life. Mother chafed at male domination and inequality in the workplace. She had no hesitation about confrontation if she believed she was right. The problem with that was she had full confidence in her beliefs, even if unsupported.  If alive today, she’d most likely be front and center wearing a pink pussy hat.

Mary Ella, my paternal grandmother, grew up in a male-dominated household.

Sent to live with an uncle when her mother died, she grew up without a maternal role model.  She married my grandfather who had a carefree attitude about providing for his family. Despite living in poverty, she was never bitter about their circumstances. She was a joyful soul. They loved each other and their home reflected that love.

She understood the difference between about quality and quantity. This was a good trait to have, as quantity would never grace her life.  She had the ability to make the ordinary seem special. Her cherished “made in Japan” sugar bowl and creamer sit on my desk today. Ancient and fragile, they hold pens, and pencils and are a reminder that she made me feel special.

On this Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the values that my “M” connection moms gave me.

They are hard acts to follow. I am proud of them and hope they would be proud of me too.

The Legacy Box

Legacy boxes have been around forever. The current trend is to send photographs, home movies off for digitalization, forever memorialized. Seems like a good solution, but only until technology renders them as obsolete as their original source.

The other problem with this method is what to do with old letters, news clippings and such. Often people save old letters, passing them on in the belief the “correct” version of family history is recorded and undisputed. Or, maybe they simply want to spiff up their image.

Legacy Box

Legacy Box

My grandmother didn’t have a legacy box as such, just an old box whose original purpose had worn beyond recognition.

Many of the pictures were mystery people; no clue whatsoever about their identity.

I have enormous guilt about what to do with them. Is it a form of murder to shred photos that are approaching 200 years of age?

The situation gets worse. There is a lock of hair encased in a tattered ribbon.

I have a serious character flaw; I cannot bear to touch hair from an unknown individual. Eons ago, people clipped hair from deceased relatives. It gave me the willies to think I had a lock of corpse hair hanging around. I threw it out. Thus far I have escaped a lightning strike or unpleasant visit from an angry grandmother on the “other side.”

I decided not to burden my descendants with a legacy box. I am fairly certain that the perfectly darling photos of me as a curly-haired tot would not merit anything more than a passing glance by future generations.

As for letters, I burned them all, except one letter from my Dad saying he “smelled hell” paying off his mortgage. It is too funny to destroy.

People who pass on old letters in the belief their truth is irrefutable, forget there is always someone who remembers and knows that legacy box was highly sanitized.


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