An independent woman. That’s what my 96 year old Mom called herself today. She said it because at 96 things are beginning to happen that make her less independent and she is uncomfortable about it all. “I’m forgetting where I put things and my body is changing. I’m finding it so hard to accept. I have been an independent woman my whole life.”
Believe me I know how lucky I am to still have Mom! Many of you have seen your parents and loved ones age and go through the process Mom is going through right now. I have not. Neither has Mom. Her Dad died when she was 12 and her mother was institutionalized (a post for a different day) when mother was very young. She has said to me more than once that she never really saw anyone grow old. That’s a double edged sword, if you ask me. On the one hand, she has no preconceived ideas what she should be like, act like or look like at 96. So she has created herself counter to the mindset in this country and become an inspiration to many. On the other hand neither she nor I know what to expect. Maybe even if we did it would still be a hard thing to watch, and I am sure for Mom, it’s a hard thing to be going through.
You can read and talk about what to say to a parent when you know it’s time to take their car keys or move them to a assisted living facility. But, how do you respond to a parent who says they are acutely aware their bodies and minds are changing and they are embarrassed and what the hell happened to their independence? In other words, what do you say when you can’t stop the forward momentum of their lives and neither can they? What I was able to come up with was to tell her that I heard her. That it must be very difficult for her and that it was all okay. I said not to be so hard on herself and I was proud of her no matter what. I told her that we had hired a person to be with her who, up to this point, hasn’t had much to do so it was time she earned her keep. That made Mom laugh! And even though in my gut and in my heart I was so sad, to hear her laugh was the BEST.
I had an ‘aha’ moment when Mom called herself ‘an independent woman’. No wonder I have always been attracted to women in life and in novels who have their struggles and overcome them without much help from others. There is strength and dignity and grace from experiences of that kind. And no matter what happens in life, that never ever ever goes away. I’m going to tell Mom that the next time I speak to her!!
Originally posted 2016-03-02 21:17:59.
Tip for a long life: laugh-play!! Did you know the word ‘play’ can be used as both a noun and a verb? The example given using ‘play’ as a noun is, “a child at play may use a stick as an airplane.” ‘Play’ used as a verb, is defined as ‘activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.’ Example given: “the children went outside to play.”
And therein lies the rub. How come I could not find any examples using the word ‘adult’ when describing the word play? Does something happen to us as we ‘grow-up’? Does society give us the message that ‘play’ is only for children and at a certain age it’s time to get serious about life? I think it does. And, guess what, we forget about playing!! I’m talking about ‘activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose’ too! I’m talking about ‘goofing’ around, giggling, screaming with delight, laughing so hard no sound comes out, doing a silly dance, jumping in a pile of leaves, expressing yourself for pure enjoyment whether through art or dance or any of a thousand other ways!
Laugh-play, that’s my Mom. She has such a cute little girl. Oh, wait, I bet you think I’m talking about me! Nope. I’m talking about the little girl that’s inside her. I realize that I have known her little girl since I was a little girl!
See Mom’s little girl in this photo? I can.
Mom was a single parent and on most Sunday mornings my two sisters and I would pile into her double bed, which at the time seemed enormous. The biggest fight we had was who was getting each side of her. “You were there last time, Susan. It’s my turn”, I’d say. Mom would intervene and figure it out then we’d settle down and wrap ourselves around each other. We would giggle and laugh and talk about silly things. She was as silly as we were. At our goofiest we would make up games and songs. She would tell us the whole story about musicals such as South Pacific or My Fair Lady and transport us to wonderful places. As we aged subjects were added, like taking care of ourselves as young women. I remember the first time Mom told Susan it was okay for her to pluck her eyebrows, then looked at Susan and said, “Susan, what happened to your eyebrows?” Hence laughing so hard no sound came out. I visited Mom a few weeks ago (right before her 96th birthday). When I awoke the first morning my little girl was all excited to jump in bed with Mom and her little girl, which is exactly what I did! As we were snuggling she said to me, “Too bad we don’t have a paper route. I could fold them, you could throw them!” Once again laughter, giggling and goofing commenced.
I believe that the little boy or little girl we once were still lives within us. I am amazed to learn that many people are surprised when I say that. My friend Ann Ranson is one of those people. I was telling her a story about Mom’s little girl and she said, “Wait, your Mom has a little girl? I didn’t know there was a little girl/boy still with us.” Well, I say ‘yes!’ Ann has always talked about playing more and creating more. I saw her recently and BOY has she tapped into her little girl. She sets a timer and when it goes off the music plays, that’s her time to dance around her house. She also has carved out a space to create her art and recently was accepted into a show at the Bath House Cultural Center.
Look closely at this photo of my friends Andy Taylor and Marie Taylor-Morrison. Andy is in the stripped shirt and Marie is to his right. Two ‘kids’ having the time of their lives! For the record, play and fun are a HUGE part of their lives together to this day and I love it!
If you are a parent or grandparent with young children, show them that play and laughter are wonderful things. Play WITH them. So, I say to you, get re-acquainted with that little person. Experiment. Give yourself permission to be a goofball, laugh, sing, dance, scream with joy and giggle with abandon!
I believe we still carry that little girl or boy inside us because I see and hear my 96-year-old Mother’s little girl all the time! Wow, thank you Mom!! If she is any indication that laugh and play helps prolong our lives what are you waiting for?
Originally posted 2016-02-10 20:09:36.
Here are 5 questions I would REALLY like to ask my husband who fully retired a few months ago:
- Do you realize you are following me around?
- Have you called Jack, John, Steve and/or ANYONE to see if you can meet them for lunch…on a regular basis?
- Is it true spouses can not testify against each other in a court of law?
- So, where are you going today?
- How is it possible to sit in one spot for 6 hours straight?
And, I must add this one told to me by a friend: “See this sheet of paper?” she said. “What is it?” he said. ” This is a stroke tally of how many times you called my name in the last hour!” It was the first day they were home together after his retirement!
It’s a good thing my husband Jake has a sense of humor. When I told him the theme of this blog, he said, “Just be as kind as you can.”
Rodney Brooks, a columnist for the Washington Post www.washingtonpost.com, wrote in the Business section on November 1, 2015, “So you retired. Now what do you do?” “Make sure you have something to do. Your marriage may depend on it.”
I’m thinking if you have a good marriage and good communication, getting through this phase may not be pleasant but doable, at least that is what a psychologist friend tells me. She also says the number one reason women come to her, after retirement age, is to learn how to deal with their husbands who are about to leave the workforce or have already left. She asks the wife if the husband would be amenable to talking with her? If so, she teaches them about ‘sampling.’ Sampling is merely trying different things, just to try them. If something appeals, great. If not, move on to something else. No pressure. No being overwhelmed.
Another fascinating article, “Can Your Marriage Survive Retirement?” dated January 24th, 2013, was written by Robert Laura, Contributor to Forbes: www.forbes.com. He says that, “Retirement seems particularly hard on men who haven’t prepared for the transition.” Laura also sites Miriam Goodman, author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement As A Couple who “made the issue very real by noting that Japanese researchers have come up with a clinical diagnosis called Retired Husband Syndrome.” Women in Japan are visiting doctors with ‘physiological reactions like rashes, nervous tics, headaches,’ et al.
I feel a little guilty about slanting this post towards women and their plight, however, everything I read reinforced my observations. It got me thinking about how men in our generation were raised differently than women in terms of their number one defined role, that of breadwinner. Period! No wonder the transition to retirement is so hard. Women are multi-taskers. We can take care of a household, raise kids, WORK outside the home and seem more socially integrated. Leaving the workforce may be difficult for us, but we adapt quicker than our male counterparts.
I created a survey to see what you think. You can find it at the link below. I would appreciate you asking your spouse to take it, as well:
Will Rogers once said, “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. The average person has roughly 20 years (remember this is Will Rogers era) remaining after retirement-time enough to write a masterpiece, run a marathon, or mentor hundreds of youth. There’s even time to do nothing, discover the beauty of grandkids, or rekindle the romance of a long ago relationship. Tomorrow can be the beginning of new adventures, new joys, and greater successes-how you spend it is up to you.”
I had a colleague who retired the minute he was eligible. His goal was to live the way his dad lived, 35 years after retirement, traveling, reading, doing whatever he wanted to do with or without his wife’s involvement. I just heard this wonderful man passed away. If I count the years since the day of his retirement I believe it would be very close to 35 years. Tony, you did it! I would call that a life well lived! I hope your two sons are inspired to do the same and they teach their sons and daughters the art of retiring well. I know you inspired a lot of us to follow in your footsteps!
Originally posted 2015-11-22 22:21:48.
Myth number one debunked: Your age doesn’t have to dictate your style!
Case in point: Some of Mom’s shoes and one of her tops:
“Hi Ma, whatcha doin?” “I’m playing in my closet” she says. And I think to myself, “I wonder how many 95 year old women ‘play’ in their closet?” She is trying on clothes to either have lunch with a friend, go to the hair salon or the grocery store! Mom’s philosophy about her style is to buy clothes that appeal to her. She doesn’t think whether clothes are ‘age appropriate’. She thinks about how they look on her, period. She buys timeless pieces because eventually “they come back in style.” Every once in awhile, she’ll catalog shop and buy a new outfit to ‘update’ her wardrobe. Her clothes are bright and happy. When I am with her, there isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t compliment her on how she looks. I think they are surprised to see what they perceive as an ‘older’ woman, dressing with style and panache and they like it! BOOM! Debunked!
Myth number two debunked: Desire may change but the need for connection and touch never does!
I read an article in the Washington Post Magazine www.washingtonpost.com/magazine recently, about flibanserin, the ‘female viagra’. The FDA has approved flibanserin for pre-menopausal women. Frankly I was steamed! What about the POST-M women? There must not be anyone at the FDA who is over the age of 55!! Then, I remember an incident with Mom about 5 years ago: There was an article sitting on her counter titled something like, ‘Teach a man to kiss the way you want to be kissed!’ “So Mom, what’s with this article?”, I say. “Oh honey, how do you think Bern (her boyfriend) would feel if I gave him this to read? He’s just a little off in that department.” BOOM! Debunked!
Myth number three debunked: You are never too old to find true love!
I received a call at the beginning of September from my dear friend Beverly, who has been single since before we met, which was in the early ’90’s. She told me she had found the love of her life who asked her to marry him and could they get married in my home? “WOW! of course!” I screamed!! Beverly has lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for more than 20 years. She is the owner of a very successful business called, lifepathretreats.com. She wrote these remarks for my last blog http://newageaging.com/if-i-knew-then-what-i-know-now-part-two : “I feel so fortunate to have had all of the experiences that I have had as a single person to understand the importance of being myself, loving fully, being happy being single and being present in every moment. The experiences that I had and the lessons I have learned have given me the wisdom and insight in order to love with abandon and yet maintain my own self. It’s truly a gift.” Michael is 75. Beverly is 68. To add to myth number three debunked: Mom and Bern met when they were both 84.
Myth number four debunked: Just because you’re a grown up doesn’t mean you have to act that way!
Mom laughs and plays all the time. She reminds me to play and laugh and goof. It’s good for the soul!
Myth number five debunked: You can have an eclectic, interesting, diverse set of friends at any age. Mother cultivates relationships with people of all ages. She calls to check on them and they call her. They share meals, go to the movies and attend each others’ parties. BOOM! Debunked!
Do not allow yourself to be defined by books, magazines, society, other people or the media when it comes to growing up. Let’s show them that this aging process is so much more than we have been led to believe. BOOM!
Let me know what you think. And, please share my blog with your friends.
Originally posted 2015-10-21 20:33:24.