My friend Adele and I had dinner together the other evening and before we realized it, we were almost the last ones in the dining room! Two hours had rolled by while we exchanged our stories. We each are mothers of four sons, we each hover around 90, we each laugh when we say we feel like pioneers in being old. We’re not quite sure how to be old. We’ve never been old before. We think it’s grand that a recent study has found that those kids we see on iPhones are frequently texting with their grandparents.
I overheard one side of a conversation a resident was having while sitting on a bench in the sunshine and talking on her iPhone. She said, “Yes, it’s rained here! Hard. Might be a flood. All that grey flannel smoke has disappeared and the creek is raging.” A pause, and then, “Oh, I know that just because it’s rained, we aren’t going to drown. You’re right about that.”
Adele and I talked about our sense of identity. Some of my sense of who I am, or have been, is tied up with having been a home-owner for 65 years. Now I am “just a renter.” Makes me feel temporary. As, indeed, I have to accept, I am. That’s part of the adjustment, the transition in moving to a senior community. Over time, after our habitual identity has been peeled away, we will find new identity, a new sense of self. No more will it be, “Are you John Love’s mom!”
As another woman and I paddled about the pool here last Sunday afternoon, we introduced ourselves. She said, “Oh, you are famous!”
I asked, “What has made me famous?”
She replied, “You published a book and it’s for sale in the Village Store.” I could accept that. Walking for Our Lives has made my name known within Spring Lake Village. A population of 400. Maybe now our sense of identity is based on being part of a community.
It’s where we live. It’s how we live. It’s as though we are on permanent vacation with all the basics taken care of. Our food is cooked and served to us, our beds and linens are changed once a week. If needed, our transportation is provided. All we have to do is stay as healthy as possible and be involved with activities. Attend exercise classes, drink plenty of water. It’s no less real than any other of the phases of our lives. It’s more than paying for shelter, it’s participating in the warp and weft of our social fabric in the reality of these extra decades.
I remembered something that Joan Baez said. She was talking about a career of traveling to present her concerts, but I think it applies to senior lives: “Part of going off the road is learning to respect the years I spent on it.”
Adele and I chuckled at the fortunate turn of events in our long lives. As we walked out of the dining room, I brushed her arm so I could collect that moment.