Thursday, August 18, 2016

Growing Old: Thursday's Reflection

My mother, grandmother, and me (about 6)
I think I have always imagined myself as old. I have felt old before my time. 

I like to think of myself as the holder of some wisdom, of being a compassionate crone, a "been there, done that" light-hearted, but knowing woman of a certain age. 

Perhaps that is why I have never minded the wrinkles, the grey, the age spots, even the minor aches I've experienced. I welcome the position of elder. The matriarch. 

One of My Role Models
Many decades ago, when I was 11 or 12, I remember being scolded by my mother for coming home later than I was suppose to from ice skating on a weekend afternoon. My Grandma Hansen, my mother's mother, was visiting, and she said to my mother, "Betty Anne, how often does Nancy do anything wrong? Let her be." I had never known my grandmother to intervene, and I was surprised by and grateful for her advocacy. 

My Grandma Hansen
My mother shrugged, the kind of daughter to mother shrug that can be resurrected easily from a place thought buried and dead. I received no punishment, no privileges removed. The matter was never discussed again, but I remember thinking that I could be that woman someday: a woman whose age and life-experience and love could cause a change of heart--or if not, heart, at least action. 

Now I am a grandmother and growing into what the privileges of my age could be. I want to be an advocate for my grandchildren, too. And beyond that I hope I can be viewed still as valid and valued for the life lived. I am grateful for the role models of both my grandmothers.

Another Role Model
When I worked at Luther Seminary, I often scanned the chapel or dining room for the wife of a former seminary president. She was easy to spot, thanks to her silver, wispy bun. She was thin, perfect for the Chanel-like suits she wore no matter the weather or the occasion -- the essence of classic elegance. She walked slowly, but firmly and talked the same way. For some unbelievable reason she knew and remembered my name and when she saw me, she would take my arm and we would walk towards her destination. 

I would try to ask her questions, but somehow she always turned them around so I was talking about myself or my work. She laughed softly, patted my hand and before parting --on her own time-- she would give me a thought to ponder, a word of encouragement a "God Bless." 

I want to be her. In my own way, of course. I'll never be thin. I'll never let my hair grow long again, and I own no Chanel-like suits to carry me into the next decades. But I hope I can be a soft curtain of inspiration for someone. I hope I can wear the passing of time, the loss of loves, the removal of roles and the joy in the present moment just as well. 

Ah yes, it is good to be growing old. 

An Invitation
What are your hopes as you grow old? Who were your role models? I would love to know. 


  1. My hope is that I would not only be wise, but be considered wise by my grandnieces and grandnephews and grandchildren. Not always such an easy aspiration, since the younger generation aren't always respectful toward their elders.

  2. I think a key to wisdom is compassion--and certainly our beloved "grands" need that from us at times. I suspect you are viewed as both wise and compassionate.


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