Growing Old Gracefully or Is it Disgracefully?

When my grandparents were in their seventies, I thought they were really old. My maternal grandparents lived into their eighties and we thought they’d done well! When, however, my parents reached their seventies, they didn’t seem old at all. So it was a shock when neither of them made it to eighty. When I reached sixty, I realised that age does not make you old. Anything can happen at any age. You are not guaranteed a long and ripe old age. You have to live life to the full for as long as you can before it simply passes you by.

When you reach a milestone age, younger people tend to ask you certain things.  Having just made it to 70, I got to thinking a little more deeply about the answers to these questions.

Do you miss your career?” 

I loved teaching and I have many happy memories about my chequered career.  For forty years I was involved in Education and taught every grade from pre-school to Grade 7.  I specialised in speech and hearing and gave support to children with speech, language and hearing problems for seven years of my career.  I also taught computer skills to the elderly.  It was all very rewarding so it took me a while before I stopped feeling guilty about not being in the classroom or doing something useful with my remaining years.  But now I am enjoying making myself and my husband Number One. We do what we want when we want and the freedom is intoxicating.

If you had your life over, what would you do differently?” 

To quote, Frank Sinatra, “Regrets, I have a few, But then again too few to mention.” 

I certainly made many mistakes and cringe at the thought of them but feeling guilty about them is a wasted emotion.

Maybe If I could do it over, I would be kinder, more tolerant and less judgemental.  But it was Life that taught me these lessons.  I hope I am a nicer old lady than the hot-headed youngster I was. 

I loved the movie, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and also the song, “Fill the world with love,” which was featured in it. “Did I fill the world with love my whole life through? ”  I tried but sometimes I failed.

What part of your life was the most rewarding?

My teaching career was very fulfilling and was concurrent with the most rewarding part of my life which was raising my daughters and helping our eldest raise her two boys.   Life between the ages of 30 and 60 was a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. I adored being a mother and I loved my kids but sometimes I felt pressured and exhausted and on occasion, I was horrible to my kids but they just loved me back.  My home was filled with noise and chaos and sometimes I would feel that it was all just too much! 

“Is this what I signed up for?” I would ask the gods.

And the answer would be “Hell, yes! You wanted love, marriage and a houseful of kids. This is what it is! Take it or leave it!”

There was never a dull moment. I loved waking up on a Saturday morning knowing all the kids were safe and finding several others dossing down wherever they could find a space. We had fold-up mattresses and couches and seldom were they empty. Every time we went to our holiday home in Struisbaai for weekends and holidays, it wasn’t just our own kids packed into the Hi-Ace or Caravelle – it was double or more and a dog, as each had to bring a friend or two.

My elder grandson said to me one day, “Gran, we’re such a dysfunctional family but everybody wants to be us.”  

“And why do you think that is?” I asked.

“Because we’re happy and everyone feels welcome.”   And isn’t that the secret?  Love conquers all – the ups and downs, the dramas, the chaos. It doesn’t matter that the house isn’t in perfect order – as long as there is love and food, there is happiness.

Those thirty years were when the very young and the very old were my priorities.  Making sure aging relatives were not neglected, being there for friends and siblings and their kids, putting everything possible into my career and maintaining a good relationship with my husband, all this made it difficult to get me time but I did.   I took time out for exercise, book club, breakfast club and hobbies.   I had good friends and siblings and we simply helped each other out.  It was just a normal part of being parents.  Sharing kids is what we did.  I had it all and I loved my life.

What is the secret to having a good marriage?

A young bride once said to me, “I want a marriage just like yours.’  That was a high compliment and I didn’t want to spoil it by telling her that it didn’t come easily. Having a good marriage is not the fairy tale or Hallmark version. Living happily ever after requires effort and commitment.  You will clash, and you will have problems but if you keep love at the centre of everything you will learn to compromise, to be tolerant, and to accept your partner, warts and all.  When something really tough happens it will either drive a couple apart or bring them closer together.  If it’s the latter, then the marriage will survive. I feel very lucky that I have the best husband in the world. He has been an awesome father and an amazing grandfather. Unlike many men of his generation, he was totally hands-on when it came to household chores and raising kids! We have a good marriage because we put each other first, above all else and we deal with the problems that life throws at us, together. We have had plenty to deal with in our lives and we have worked through it and come out stronger each time.  This is not to say that you should stick to a bad marriage – if it’s toxic – get out!

How do you stay young?

Staying young, I’m afraid, is not going to happen – we all get older but enjoying the journey is what we need to do. Live in the moment and appreciate the small things.  Embrace every opportunity and do the stuff you want to do as soon as you can.  Have fun!  Cry a little, laugh a lot.

How come you are so energetic and fit?

I love it when I’m asked this because I don’t do even half as much as when I was in those child-raising days. I have the luxury of pacing myself now.

You don’t have to train like an athlete to be fit.  I am blessed with good health. I have learned to look after this gift by watching what I eat, exercising regularly and getting my health checks.

I used to be smug about my excellent health but after one or two little issues I am learning that anything can happen at any time and at any age. So now I really listen to my body and if I need a nap, I take one. If I don’t feel up to doing certain tasks I don’t do them till I can or I ask for help. Life is short, look after yourself so that you can enjoy every moment before it’s too late.

A short while ago, I was seven years old.  Suddenly, I am seventy.  Each decade has only become better.  I intend my seventies to be sensational!

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7 thoughts on “Growing Old Gracefully or Is it Disgracefully?

  1. Mary Craig

    I love all your answers to the questions. I’m afraid I can’t be as good as u but as I age I’m also trying to look the other way instead of trying to like everyone who annoy me. I find it very hard but trying very hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. puppy1952 Post author

      Mary, no way should we allow others to treat us badly either! You don’t have to like everyone. Life is too short. Surround yourself with positive people who make you happy

      Like

      Reply

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