It's All in How You Define it - by Nancy Reed

I don’t believe in kowtowing to the years I’ve accumulated in my life, and I refuse to estimate or be fearful of the number of years remaining. Whether or not those attitudes fit with the common use of the term “aging gracefully” I don’t know. I believe too many folks are concerned with how they appear to others to be aging rather than how they personally feel about the process and its effects on their health and life activities. 

For years, I worked with a woman who dealt with life so gracefully it depressed me to be around her. I felt sadness at my own lack of the quality until I observed her more closely. She never attempted anything new, refused to recall or relate any negative experiences in her life, didn’t take personal or professional risks, and reacted to stressful situations by pretending they didn’t exist. I never saw her revel in Eureka! moments. At that point, in my forties, I experienced an epiphany. Gracefulness with life, if that’s what she was displaying, was not for me.

I’m a bumbler. I trip over life, smack face-first into it, and get bruised by it. Occasionally, it slaps me down. But, since that revelation, I have endeavored not to be embarrassed or discouraged by my pratfalls along the way. Instead, I strive to learn new things, meet new people, and challenge my own attitudes and opinions. I don’t always succeed, but I have learned that my critics have to carry the weight of their negativity – I don’t have to. Aging gracefully? Depends on the definition. What comprises aging? What denotes graceful?

As the years of my life have increased, so have the opportunities and joys I’ve garnered. I adopted my adult daughter, my only child, as a single woman at the age of sixty-nine, and we’re greatly blessed to share our lives. At seventy-one, I became a grandmother for the first time and have been awed to see my wee imp grow in body, mind, and spirit. At age seventy-four, in addition to my short fiction and poetry in local anthologies, I published my first book and now have six to my credit with more to come. 

The inevitable culmination of aging is, of course, dying. Will I do that gracefully? I declare – people think I’m joking, but I’m not – that I don’t believe in dying; it’s a waste of time. It had better catch me by surprise between one step and the next, because I still have so much living to do that I’ll fight it if I can. In my mind, I add days to my life for all the things I still look forward to – a fantastical grace period I gift myself. It works much better than ruing time’s passage and counting down to The End

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Nancy L. (Nan) Reed's love of words inspired her to write from an early age: short stories, novels, memory snippets, scripts, and poetry. Her latest book is Conversations Between Two Great Friends, 2017. She calls Colorado the perfect place to live and is Musing at nancylreed.com about writing, designing a tiny house specifically for a wordsmith, and other subjects bizarre and intriguing. She encourages everyone with words to share to put pen to paper.

Boxed-In Because of Aging -by Grace D. Napier

Imagine that you are surrounded by a tall fence and a locked gate. You can look through the fence and gate and recognize familiar activities and interests that you once had. Consider this boxed-in perception as a concept of aging for some persons. What can you do to set yourself free from the box when you retire?

The solution is to push against the gate to discover that you can budge it. Keep pushing as a way to set yourself free. When you reach retirement age—whatever it is for each of us—do not focus on your age but on other options open to you. I knew a woman who whenever we met would say announce her age.  She restricted her life by focusing on her age. 

The word retirement is unfortunate when applied to the interval between ending a career and death. To some individuals it connotes an end, not a transition. We need to find another word to replace “retirement.” My entry is “the discovery years.” 

Even without having dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, older people process mentally more slowly than they once did. “Where did I put my keys?” “Is that engagement today or tomorrow?” “I used to know his telephone number, but now I can’t remember.”

Despite a little slippage in recall, you can retrieve what you have forgotten by searching diligently, but this effort is both time-consuming and frustrating. Instead, consult the calendar or day-planner to find the notation of a date, or call your luncheon companion to ask, “Is our lunch today or tomorrow?” Enter phone numbers that you use frequently into your personal notebook. Note upcoming events on a calendar and consult it every morning. 

Consider the problem of misplaced keys. Putting the keys in a variety of places when returning home can cause the problem. By always placing the keys in the same location you solve the problem.

Use crossword puzzles in newspapers or books to stimulate your brain. When you feel frustrated set the puzzle aside for a short time. When you come back to it, the needed word may burst from your mind. You have regained what had seemed too hard or impossible to retrieve.

Make an effort to play games with friends. Invite them for coffee and games, such as Scrabble or Monopoly. Compete to win. Stretch your mind. Strive to be a champion.

Try to reduce the amount of time you are alone at home. Being with others provides another channel to keep your mind involved. Try to be with optimists. 

Dancing, swimming, table tennis, exercise classes, and other physical activities are helpful. Walk near your home once or twice a day. Use a bus service if it is available. You are in charge of you. Make certain things happen rather than wait for someone else to suggest an activity. When you initiate an activity involving others, you are helping them as well as yourself.

Assemble a jigsaw puzzle. Although it may be painfully slow, think of the pride you have when you say, “I put this puzzle together myself even though it has five hundred pieces!”

Learn something new such as embroidery, knitting, crocheting or tatting. Learn computer skills or a new language. Try gardening. Paint, or learn to make pottery. Try a different book genre. 

Just because you are older does not mean you have to shy away from anything new. I heard of a man who baked his first pie after he retired. It takes courage to attempt something never tried before. The retirement years are a genuine part of life. Do not accept the idea that when your career ends, life also ends. Your retirement years will be many more than your ancestors had. Use these years to your advantage.

Another realm of life is volunteerism. If you still drive, Meals-on-Wheels needs drivers. Public libraries may need helpers to shelve books or read to children. Churches and schools may need volunteers. You could volunteer in a hospital, guiding patients and visitors. Many new adventures await you! Many agencies could not survive if all helpers were paid. Volunteers enable agencies to continue serving the community.

The way to keep youthful regardless of your chronological age is to dare to try something new. Have a reason to get up in the morning. Retirement years can be the time of discovery and excitement. I knew a woman who began piano lessons as a senior just for the fun of learning something new. If your career developed something special in you, share it with others--being a graphic artist, teaching photography, or whatever your talent is.  An accountant can help taxpayers with income taxes. Executives can help a new business grow. Share your hobby ortravel stories. 

Never say, “I am too old to do that!” If a toddler could express his feelings in words by saying, “I can’t walk very well. I’ll quit trying. Sitting is good enough for me,” we would regard that attitude as abnormal, lacking enthusiasm and optimism. Have a normal toddler’s zest for living.. 

Visit a senior center and request a list of the month’s activities and programs. The variety may surprise you by offering interesting programs. Visit museum, which offer culture, history, and information.

Consider writing your life for relatives and friends, not for publication but to create a meaningful memoir for your descendants to read. Describe a house from your past and your childhood toys and games. Describe your school. Did you have ride a bus? These details will be precious to your descendants. 

If you are near a college or university with courses in special education, you might enroll to learn sign language or transcribing braille. Volunteer to run errands or shop for groceries for the homebound.  Volunteer to transport patients to dialysis or cancer treatments. 

I wish you countless adventures with spectacular experiences as you travel through the years of discovery.

BON VOYAGE!

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Dr. Grace D. Napier (emerita professor of Special Education, University of Northern Colorado) was born blind in 1922, enjoys reading and writing, has written five books and has used ten dog guides over seventy-five years. 

Miata Memories - by Fran Green

 

“Arrive home at EXACTLY 5:30” was the mandate from my husband, Bob, on October 29, 1990.   As I pulled into our driveway the garage door opened.  There sat a beautiful blue 1991 Mazda Miata with a big red bow tied on it.  Our son, Jay, Bob and my mother-in-law, Elsie, were belting out “Happy Birthday.”  

“What a great idea,” I thought.  “He arranged with the Mazda dealer to let him borrow it for the night to take me out to dinner for my 47th birthday!”  

It took all three singers to convince me that it was mine.   

The next day I drove it to the Science Museum of Virginia where I worked.  I could not stop looking at it.  All day I peeped out a window overlooking the parking lot to make sure it was still there. I told everyone I was going to keep it forever.  

In 1991 our son Jay’s baseball team won the Virginia State Little League Championship.  The team was flown to Florida to compete in the Southeast Regional Tournament. Bob decided to take the Miata on its first long road trip.  Bob is six foot three inches tall; getting in and out of it was not easy.  Adding two tall, skinny preteen boys was even harder, but Jay and his friend Ethan found riding in it to be much more fun than losing their first game.

After retirement we spent seven years living on the Outer Banks but continued visiting our Richmond friends.  Of course I went back and forth in the Miata.  During one visit I was driving my friend Kathy home.  When I saw a “No Left Turn” sign I decided to ignore it. Only when I bumped over a curb and ended up in an empty parking lot did I realize that the road was at a 45-degree angle. We got to her house although I knew something major was wrong, and Kathy’s glasses had flown off her face and disappeared.  The right front wheel was badly damaged.  Bob had to drive four hours from the beach to rescue me the next day.  Two years later, as I was lowering the convertible top, I noticed a glint of something metal.  Under the hinge on the driver’s side I discovered the missing eyeglasses, intact.

I refused to give up my 23-tear-old Miata when we moved to Colorado.  I was confident it was healthy enough to come along.  Our strategy, since Bob was not sure it would make it that far, was for me to leave one hour earlier than he and Barley.  By lunchtime he had caught up with me; by dinnertime he had caught up with me again.  We did this for three days until we arrived safely at our new home in Fort Collins.  

After the move the odometer rolled over to 200,000 miles.  The Miata was invited to spend winters in a neighbor’s garage in exchange for my looking after their house while they were away.  When I retrieved car in April I noticed a fluid leak.  It turned out to be brake fluid,  leading to an expensive repair.  A week later I noticed more leaks.  Mechanics found three more leaks plus seepage plus torn parts.  Repairs could range from $2,000 to as much as $12,000 for a total restoration.  

Time to lay my Miata to rest. 

OBITUARY FOR A BLUE MIATA

The 1991 model blue Mazda Miata was born in 1990.  It was a surprise gift to Fran Green from her husband, Bob, for her 47th Birthday on October 29, 1991.  

It died at the age of 27 with 204,000 miles, having traveled as far south as Florida and as far north as Vermont.  In 2013 after living in Richmond, Virginia, and Corolla, North Carolina, it relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado.  

During its lifetime it survived a paint job, three convertible tops, and a few minor scrapes and bruises.  In its old age, it could be said that it “shakes, rattles, but it still rolls.”   On May 31, 2017, it rolled into Dellenbach Motors.  Death was caused by a series of leaks, worn out parts, and the need for intensive medical care.  Its life was sacrificed, along with a 2006 green Subaru Forester, for a 2017 blue Forester.  A 2015 Subaru Forester survives it.  Fran and Bob Green and Barley also survive.  No service is planned at this time.  May it rest in peace.

It is destined for an afterlife with a Dellenbach employee who had previously owned a red 1991 relative.  

The Greens have welcomed a copper-red 2010 Miata into their family.