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By Bob Chrisman


Last fall, determined to catch the color changes in the leaves, I watched them turn from green to yellow, orange, and red. I would sit on the window seat in the front room and write about the colors.

One day…suddenly it seemed…the leaves had all turned. When did it happen? I had been watching everyday.

I sat in the window seat even more determined to watch the leaves fall. Occasionally a leaf would let go of the branch and float to the ground to join other leaves. I didn’t remember all of those leaves on the ground yesterday. Did they fall during the night so no one would realize that winter waited around the corner?

One morning I looked out and found that almost all of the leaves lay in yards and in the street. Again I had missed the time it happened.

Growing older has worked just like that. One day I noticed a gray hair. The next day a whole head of gray hair greeted me as I looked in the bathroom mirror. A single wrinkle on my forehead disappeared among the many lines that developed overnight. My varicose vein on my right thigh became a veritable road map of veins. My waistline doubled in size.

I felt old, but only in my body. Then older crept into my mind.

A few months before I retired, an employee appeared in my office. “Great music. Who is it?”

“Petula Clark.”

“Soooooooo? Is she from your generation?” My generation? I recoiled at the idea that I had joined a generation.

“Don’t you remember ‘Downtown’? ‘The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener’?” I searched my mind for other titles.

She put her hands on her hips. “No, I don’t know her. And don’t you dare ask me where I was when John Kennedy was assassinated. I wasn’t even born yet.”

Thus I came to the knowledge that many of my cultural references meant nothing to a lot of the people who worked with me. I had grown old.

I never thought I would live past 40, but that birthday came and went. Turning 50 changed the way I viewed myself. No longer young, middle age had overtaken me. I celebrated the 56th anniversary of my birth last Saturday. I may live to see 60.

I am older.

But, you know what? I like it. Despite the aches in my joints when the weather turns damp and cool like today, not feeling like a part of the current culture frees me to do what I want to do without worrying about what other people will think of me. Maybe this “getting older” thing will free me from most of my inhibitions.

The rules have changed. I am old and can do what I want with my life. I don’t have family to account to. My friends won’t be surprised by what I do (well, most of them won’t).

Because I am older, I know now that I have a very short time to live. I must get on with my life’s purpose (whatever that may be), not because I’m desperate, but because I want to do the things I came to do. I want to live each moment regardless of how many I may have left.

Older has become the sand rushing downward through the neck of the hour glass. Older has restored the preciousness of this life. Older is what I am right now.

Older.



Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer whose piece Hands, about his mother’s hands, appeared last month on red Ravine. Growing Older is based on a writing practice that Bob did on WRITING TOPIC – GROWING OLDER.

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Sarah (Book of Genesis), gouache on wooden board retablo,
painting © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



You can’t stop it. The tick-tock of the clock.

Once I heard someone say that time doesn’t pass (as if we’re standing still and time flows on by); instead, we pass through time.

Perhaps you don’t want to stop the passage of time. Maybe you’re one of those people who believes that, like fine wine, we just get better with age.

An MSNBC article that came out in 2007 cited research indicating that even people who develop chronic illness late in life have a good chance of living to the age of 100. The key is lifestyle. Good nutrition, exercise, and avoiding smoking all can attribute to longevity.

According to the 2000 census, the U.S. boasted more than 50,000 centenarians at that time, and the number of people aged 100 or more is expected to double by 2010.


   

     


How do you approach aging? Is it something you look forward to or something you dread?


The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.
                              ~Frank Lloyd Wright


Time wounds all heels.
                               ~Dorothy Parker


Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe, old age flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.
                              ~Edith Wharton


Perhaps you’re dealing with aging parents and have gotten a glimpse of what is to come. (Da golden years, my foot! More like da-crepit years!)



                 



Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Examine closely all the places where your skin gives away the aging process. Check out your crow’s feet. Does your brow carry the worry of your life? How about the spot between your eyebrows?


Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
                              ~Mark Twain


Think of all the ways we talk about aging. Growing old gracefully. No spring chicken. Past one’s prime. One foot in the grave. Senile, advanced, in decline, geriatric, antiquated, ancient, hag, wrinkled, winter of life. Older but wiser.


As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.
                              ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am not young enough to know everything.
                              ~Oscar Wilde


Write about growing older. Write about it whether it matters to you greatly or not. Write about the passage of time as if time is running out. (It is.) Write, write, write. For 15 minutes. For the rest of your life. Now go.


Once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.
                              ~Charles M. Shultz

    

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