ENGRAVED BY TIME

old tree 

I think the most wonderful part of aging is owning the hard won character we build that so clearly defines the lives we have lived. One never knows what might become of young saplings or even full-grown trees. A simple downpour might do them in from the roots up. But old trees? You know where they stand. You can see how many branches they have sent out and how many have remained strong through storm after storm. Once the leaves fall, you can even appreciate the arc their paths have taken and the lengths they have gone to keep their balance.

A few days ago, I turned 63. When my grandmother was this age I asked her, “Gosh, Granny, what does it FEEL like to be SO old?” Her reply was shocking: “Oh, I don’t feel old. I feel just like I did in my 20’s. The difference is that other people treat me differently. That’s the only thing that lets me know I’m not young anymore.”

Well, I am glad to now be, ‘treated differently,’ because frankly, I am. Despite the many hats and faces I’ve worn over the last six decades, one thing remains true: my past choices have defined my character. Once the façade of youth passes, what you’ve been is who you are. Time engraves you choice-by-choice, line-by-line and ring-by-ring. It carries a poignancy that cannot be ignored because now you can almost count the grains of sand left in the top of the hourglass.

Shortly before he died last week at age 69, David Bowie told an interviewer: “Age doesn’t bother me. It’s the lack of years left that weighs far heavier on me than the age that I am.” I feel the same. There are fewer years ahead of me than behind. But it is a great and valuable gift to be reminded that nothing lasts forever. It keeps you reaching skyward.

 

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8 thoughts on “ENGRAVED BY TIME

  1. Well said, as usual Helen. I was just at a store where the woman behind the counter looked just awful. Her face was tightly stretched back and her lips looked swollen and alien to her face. I looked at her and wondered who she saw looking back at her when she looks at the mirror everyday.

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    • Sadly, those women are everywhere. Sometimes I just want to say: “Be YOU! Youth is gone. You cannot capture it in a bottle or paint it back on!”. . .but the voice they must hear in their head says something different entirely–and quite honestly, it must also affect what they ‘see’ in the mirror. 🙂

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  2. You hit it directly to the point. Sometimes I wonder “who am I and what am I?” forgetting that I have gone through much in life, have seen much, done much, traveled much which, in their totality define us. I agree with Bowie. Death doesn’t pain me but the thought of leaving a lot of undone things behind. Oh, if only we can do what we want to do, any time we want to do it. 4 mos from now I will 68. Two years later, 70 – a bonus indeed.

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  3. Nice column, interesting you are only 63 and that seems like “old” to you, ha! I have a daughter who just turned 61, she looks to be in her 40s or early 50s, and I look more like I’m in my 60’s to many people–I tend to see my wrinkles as more obvious the way we all do. Age seems to me to be of he mind. I have a column on my WordPress page about age, called What Does It Mean To Be How Old? You might like it. I post as Pujakins. Your columns are enjoyable and you have a nice way with words.

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    • Well, truth is, I have felt ‘old’ since I was 6. It has only been in these last 20 years or so that I have quite let loose my ‘inner child.’ I have read your posts and always thought of us a similar age–now to find your daughter is my age!! Clearly, you must ‘feel’ young. Kudos!!!

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      • I am a very youthful person with a very young heart and though my body isn’t as young as my mind, it does its best to keep up! Thanks for the compliment. I did begin married life and motherhood as a teenager, and that helps.

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  4. Pingback: ENGRAVED BY TIME | Senior University Press

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