Friday, February 20, 2009

You Gotta Be Bold to Be Old

I've just come back from taking care of my mother for a couple of days after some minor surgery. I was struck once again by the courage required to face the various adventures of aging.

Mom's actually quite sturdy at 86; the stories she tells are what make me aware of the perilous nature of being old. She's developed a sort of gallows humor to deal with some of it: tells a very funny and hair-raising and sad story about going out to lunch with two friends, one with Alzheimer's and the other with emphysema, breathing oxygen from a tank.

Bottom line: while she was trying to get the forgetful one to her house, the other one started running out of oxygen, and they were still ten miles from that woman's home. So Mom drove the ten miles at enormous speed hoping that a cop would see them and help, or that they'd get there in time.

They got there in time. The friend who got the oxygen lived several more months.

You gotta be bold and tough: either to be the one who's air or mind is running out, or the one seeing her friends fall all around her. As stages of life go: it looks at least as hard as the worst of ninth grade.

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mamie said...

I love this post, Peggy. Your mom sounds like a woman living life to the fullest and helping others do the same. My dad, also 86, often does double routes of Mobile Meals! I love this kind of spirit! I hope to live as long and boldly.

Greta said...

Peggy, how do you manage to come up with these topics? (That's akin to "Where do you get the ideas for your stories?" Sorry!) Anyway,this one makes me think: Is it you gotta be bold to be old OR you gotta be old to be bold? Never the shy one, I find it even easier to be bolder as I get older. At 65 I am starting to be "the one seeing her friends" beginning to drop by the wayside. So far, however, I'm really enjoying this stage of life. I'm fortunate to have few aches and pains.


Anonymous said...

Treasure every moment you can with your mom, Peggy. She sounds like an amazing woman and her genes in you are obvious. My mom died last year after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. Chatting about her imminent death with us was bold and sacred.

Peggy Payne said...

Mamie, I'm glad to hear your Dad is doing well. Seems only recently he was on your blog in a hospital bed.

Anon, thanks for the kind words about both Mom and me. I can't even bear to think about the truly bold and sacred conversations you've had with your mom.
Greta, I've also noticed that older is bolder. Especially among women. A woman over fifty is a relatively free creature.

And on the source of ideas: I ask myself what's happened--or what have I done, read or thought--since I last blogged, which is usually a day. There's never a shortage.

Debra W said...

Peggy, this post touched my heart. When my grandmother was in her late eighties, she often talked about the fact that one of the hardest things about getting old was losing your friends, one by one. She also had a harder time becoming attached to her new friends because she was afraid that she would soon lose them.

Your mom sounds like a very wise and bold woman.


Peggy Payne said...

Wise, bold, and wonderfully acerbic. Thanks, Debbie.

Debra W said...


She sounds just like my grandmother! I took care of her for the last eleven years of her life and it was never boring. She was feisty and bold until the very end.

I hope your Mom is healing well.


Peggy Payne said...

You took care of her for ELEVEN YEARS, Debbie? That's enormous and so good of you.

Debra W said...

Yes, Peggy and she viewed me as more of a daughter than a granddaughter. She had some difficult expectations of me, but I did the best that I could while raising my own children, as well.

Peggy Payne said...