March 26, 2012 by Annie McCormick
When I was in high school, my sociol- ogy teacher asked members of the class to raise their hand if they wanted to live to age 20. Everybody’s hand went up. “How about 30?” Again the whole class raised their hand. She increased the amount by 10: “40?, 50?, 60?” By 50 most of the hands stayed down. When she got to 70, 80, 90 only myself and Mike Richardson had our hands up. I don’t think it was that we were unafraid to get old, maybe just afraid of dying.
I didn’t know much about “old” people then. My mother’s perspective was col- ored by her intense anxiety and fear about everything. She told me that old people had germs and that I shouldn’t touch them or I’d get sick. All of my relatives lived far away, so I didn’t get to experience their lives changing as they aged.
I believe that this society considers elderly people as an inconvenience. All those tax dollars going to health care and housing. I think that they are hidden away as a convenience to those who are in denial of being old one day. Other cultures revere their elders as an irreplaceable resource and they hand down tales and information. All elders are living history and their knowledge and experience should be tapped into. After all, they’ve lived through periods of time that will never be duplicated. Sometimes, like the Great Depression, we hope will never happen again.
Sure, our bodies change as we age. Gravity has shifted my waistline. I have more lines on my face, but they are mostly from smiling. I’ll keep them. My hair started turning white when I was 18 years old. I’d like to blame it on my daughter but the reality is that my hair color is hereditary.
I notice a difference in the manner in which people treat me when my hair is in it’s natural state. I get overlooked when in line and patronized when a waitress calls me “young lady.” There is a preconceived notion of who a person is when they have white, gray or silver hair. I like to call mine “chrome.”
The physical changes aren’t my favorite.
I would love to have the strength and stamina I had when I was 40. I have a chronic pain condition so I had to scale back on some physical activities. Since I did that I’ve lost muscle strength. Its real frustrating but I do what I can and try to be reasonable. I had some accidents and did some dumb things when I was young. I tell people “its not my age, its my mileage.”
I plan to remain young as I age. Grow old, but not grow up. I’ll still be having fun even if I look silly doing it. I like to think of myself as a classic car, an heirloom tomato or an antique child.
My high school friend Mike? He died at 21 after a fight with leukemia. I would have liked for him to grow old but it wasn’t in his cards. I did name my son after him, so he will live on in my memory.