One of the first things we did when we arrived in Las Vegas last January was to visit David's mum. She's 98 years old, lives in a pleasant, assisted living complex and remains very, very independent. She's got it all together and has a wonderful sense of humor. I wonder how I'll be doing at age 98 … if I'm still around. Though her age amazes me, it's really her attitude that astounds. She's feisty, persistent and strong, but in the nicest possible way. Everyone loves her. She recently began teaching an art class to other folks where she lives. She was elected Vice President of the Residents' Committee and has all sorts of ideas that she's hoping to implement that will allow residents more control of their lives … everything from menus to meal hours to entertainment.
What brought up this topic is that we've recently noticed that some people tend to treat us differently than in the past. I look in the mirror and, yeah, there are always a few more lines and wrinkles. If it weren't for Miss Clairol, I'd be gray. Gravity has taken its toll on my body … some parts sag instead of being perky. David looks the same to me as he did 30+ years ago, although I guess his hair is white now and a bit sparse on top. But still I wonder exactly when we started looking like we were feeble and stupid? How come some folks insist on calling us “hon” and “sweetie”? I really hate that familiarity from strangers. It should be reserved for family and children. Did we treat older people this way when we were younger? Did we automatically assume that anyone over age 60 was senile and incapable of intelligent thought or decisions or providing sound advice from years of experience?
Living full-time with my mum a couple of years ago was a real eye opener. She struggled to maintain her independence in subtle ways and I failed to recognize it. I thought it was sheer stubbornness (that seems to run in the family). She knew she couldn't drive, but refused to sell her car. She preferred to do things herself although it took her forever. She'd chastise me when I automatically helped her without being asked. “I can do this myself!”, she'd shout. She insisted that she manage her own finances although she frequently made errors or forgot to pay bills. She decided which clothes she'd wear even if I thought they were unsuitable for the occasion (and trust me, sometime they were). No matter, she was scrappy and spunky to the very end.
As David and I grow older, I hope we are able to maintain our independence and personal dignity as Rebecca has. We don't want someone else making all our decisions for us. We certainly don't want to be dependent on others. If we live long enough, our bodies will fail us to a certain extent and that we must accept. Yes, we'll need help with day-to-day stuff perhaps, but I hope we can maintain our sense of humor and adventure and our desire to learn.
We were listening to the local cruisers' radio net the other morning. It's quite an active community here and the local cruisers all listen at 0800. Cruisers take turns being the controller (aka host). The net provides weather forecasts, news of interest, local happenings and activities, "treasures of the bilge", etc. Anyhow, one fellow got on the radio and asked if anyone could help him move his dinghy. David offered to help and we walked down to his boat, Jolly Friends, after the net to see what he needed.
Down the ladder came a fellow who was obviously a few years older than we are. He looked a bit frail and weathered, but maneuvered the ladder quite well. Vern, we found out, is 91! He lives on his boat and still sails. He has a younger fellow aboard, Ken (in his 40s), who helps him out sometime. He thinks it's the sailing and staying active that accounts for his longevity. “If I sat at home and watched television like some of my friends, I'd be dead in a month!”
Not sure what it is, but Vern is an inspiration to us all. He proves that there's hope for us sexagenerians. We've got at least another 25 years left to sail. Whoopee!
Watch out you young whippersnappers, we're sticking around. And don't call me hon!