Why I’m Kind of Looking Forward to Getting Older
I have been shown the possibilities
By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I’d started viewing birthdays with trepidation. A decade later, I saw every new wrinkle and sag as a rebuke — a failure of due diligence in the form of expensive beauty products and even more expensive dermatology. Most of all, I lamented what felt like the closing off of possibility.
While researching my latest book, I had occasion to meet with women in their 70s, 80s, even 90s, and what I saw heartened me. It would be ridiculous to suggest that all older people are alike, any more than all younger people are alike. But I was struck by a kind of radiance in these women, from a deeper source than the radiance we lose around the time we hit forty. These women had all suffered the inevitable losses of age, but there was joy in the moment, now that all of the striving was done — a stronger sense of the complex beauty of the present, where sweetness and loss reside together.
My own mother did not make it out of her seventies. Toward the end of her life, she said of herself and my stepfather, “We have only a few years left. We might as well have some fun.” In fact, she had less than a year, and it was a hard one. My stepfather had less than a year after that, and it was a harder one still. But I believe they had some happiness even in that last passage.
I have left behind the age where I can kind of, sort of, on a good day, in the right light, look young(ish). For all that I’m a believer in eating well and exercising, I know I can’t control the number of years I have ahead of me. But these older women have shown me a roadmap for however many years I do have: a possibility, and a splendid one at that.
Dawn Raffel’s new book is The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies.
The Terror of Having Too Much Time (TheCovey, July 2018 issue)
If you enjoy this content, JOIN NEST WITH COVEY and receive 12 FREE ISSUES of The Covey magazine delivered straight to your inbox each month! Our magazine features in-depth reporting, first-person stories, and special offers. All just for you.