I really appreciate journalists. They are tasked with using as few words as possible to answer who, what, why, when, where and how, plus evoke a mood and make us care, even about cold, hard facts.
I admire their ability to write “tight,” which is why I also love quotations—succinct treasures of words that leave a lasting impression.
Since I began writing this column, I’ve gathered a few quotations from friends about aging that I feel a need to spotlight. Who knows? Maybe they’ll end up on your refrigerator door, at eye level.
“There is no such thing as perfect health as you age,” says one friend. A companion quote finishes the thought: “Don’t compare how you feel now to when you were younger.”
If we’re lucky, we age, usually so slowly we don’t even pay attention until one day we notice we don’t have the same stamina. Or we’re much more easily distracted. Or we can’t remember the last name of our neighbor of twenty years. Or—a situation I personally don’t mind—naps become necessary.
Most of the time, these events are normal. I only have anecdotal evidence of that, but it’s good enough for me. I get better at rationalizing things as I age.
“I don’t want to…” can mean “I’m afraid to.” As middle-age fades, fears can rise. Our inner dialogue is peppered with a journalist’s list of questions we don’t ask aloud. Who will help me? What will become of me? Why don’t people listen to me anymore? When will I have to give in to these changes? Where will I live? How will I survive on my own?
Becoming invisible is frustrating, but “I’m afraid to” doesn’t mean someone is helpless, only that they might need a little help to stay the course.
“Life is a continual letting go of one thing or another.” As time passes, we routinely have to find a new normal. Change at any age is challenging, but when mental abilities aren’t as sharp as before, change worries us. It brings out the fight in many people to keep control over their lives.
If you are caring for your loved one, give them two choices you can live with, if possible, then let them choose. Ask yourself how you want to be treated if this happens to you. Do you have that picture in your head? Keep it there as you deal with your failing loved one. Find patience. Remember the Golden Rule.
And here’s a hard truth: sometimes nothing you do will help. If it’s true that as we age we become more of who we are, you may be dealing with someone who has never been emotionally open and now draws deeper into self—or turns more violently outward.
If someone has always been mean-spirited or selfish, their issues could worsen. It’s a stark picture if those people become more of what they are.
And yet, sometimes that scenario isn’t true, either. A person can change from sweet and happy to stubborn and combative, through no fault of their own, after dementia, chronic pain or debilitating illness overtakes them.
So, there aren’t any simple answers, but I feel it’s good to know we face a multitude of future possibilities, which subsequently prepares us for future realities. Guilt and hope drive us to keep trying, and love and respect sustain us on those tough journeys.
This was brought home in a big way for me with my mother-in-law. I walked into her room one day and she said, “Oh, Susie’s here.” She remembered my name for the first time in months. That made everything worth it to me, every sacrifice, every tear shed, every minute of worry or frustration. At two o’clock the next morning she passed away, leaving me the priceless gift of remembering me for just a moment.
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most.
“We are all trying to age as successfully as we can.” Aging is a privilege, and many people do it well. They’re able to stay active in mind and body. They enjoy their days. Genetics are responsible for some of that, but so is good medicine and good living.
A friend told me her father used to say, “Everything gets better—except once.” You can chuckle or groan at that, but I appreciate his attitude. “Don’t borrow trouble,” as our grandmothers said. Words to live by.
Susan Crosby is a Lodi author and member of the Lodi Senior Citizens Commission.