Only in the past few months have I begun to think of myself as old. I felt equal to life until the back operation in March. It derailed me. In an effort to get out of my self-absorption, I began to blog again back in April. Eager to find out what others were doing, I delighted in reading posts about walking and hiking, volunteering, gardening—all sorts of interesting activities.
As I read the postings, I found myself thinking “That would be a fun thing to do. Why am I not doing that?” I began to feel like a wimp. “Others do these things, why don’t I?” became almost a mantra for me.
Then an epiphany was given to me this past Friday evening.
While watching the Great British Baking Show with Matthew purring on my lap, I suddenly said, “We have such a good life.” Stroking his fur, I began to think of the days when I’d baked yeast bread and quick bread, cookies and scones all winter long.
That led to my thinking about my whole life and all I’ve gotten to do.
While in my thirties and early forties, I rode my bicycle in the countryside around Stillwater for ten miles a day before driving to work. After a bicycle accident landed me in the hospital for three days and in recuperation for ten weeks, I began to walk. During my late forties and my fifties and sixties, I walked three to four miles a day in the nearby 1849 cemetery—up and down its hills and in the shadow of its tall, overarching trees. So I have exercised.
Throughout my forties, fifties, and sixties, I taught reading to adults and helped prep them for the GED. For ten years during that time, I took an elderly, homebound woman out to eat three times a week. So I have volunteered.
I fought the weeds in both vegetable and perennial gardens from the time I was 37 to age 73, when I moved to Missouri and settled for a shrub garden. For thirty-six years, I delighted in watching nature share its vitality and beauty with me and the neighborhood. So I have gardened.
I could go on, but the epiphany is this: I’ve been fortunate. I’ve lived long enough to have done many things: gardening; walking and bicycling; baking and trying new recipes for twelve to sixteen guests who came bi-monthly for a sit-down dinner; crocheting, knitting, and macramé-ing; painting and potting; trying out Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi Chih; camping for fifteen years in the North Woods and along Lake Superior in Minnesota; traveling; being a part of book clubs; protesting the Vietnam War and getting involved in animal rights; working as an election judge for ten years and knocking on doors for MoveOn.org for three years; teaching and writing.
The list could go on, but you get my drift. When we are fortunate enough to live long lives—and I’m 81 now—we have a lot to show for them. Just because I can’t do what I used to do, I did do those things once. I am reminded of the words from a poem I memorized my senior year in high school. The last lines of “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson are as follows:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Photo of Alfred Lord Tennyson from Wikipedia.