aging · alive · finishing school · girls school · Gulf Park · life's lessons

I’m Old, but Alive

I never thought about being old until I was.

I knew older folks, been around them all my life, but I didn’t dwell on the idea that I would someday be old myself.

Of course, I knew I would grow old, but I never worried about it. I was too busy living each stage of my life to wonder about the next phase.

What 7-year-old thinks about what life will be like when you become 40? And most 20 year olds don’t have time to contemplate the challenges facing a 60-year-old. Even as I saw my parents age and die, I didn’t internalize how I would look, how I would act, how I would live when I reached the age that we consider ‘old’.

I remember in college I asked a friend what her goals were following graduation. Her reply bumfuzzled me.

“I want to grow old gracefully,” she said.

Hello. You are 21 and you want to grow old gracefully? Come on, what the heck does that mean?

First of all, doing anything gracefully was not part of my daily routine. I couldn’t get in or out of a bathtub gracefully, much less age with any expectation of doing so with refinement and poise.

My mother must have recognized I was not destined to be the epitome of polish, so she took steps to remedy my lacking social skills. She sent me off to a girls’ school in the deep south. We are talking on the Gulf coast of Mississippi: way south. She thought learning how to eat fried chicken with a fork, and attending formal teas on Sunday afternoons would provide a crash course in turning a very ‘rough around the edges’ west Texas girl into a Southern Belle.

Her motivation might have been her fear I would marry a local boy and remain in this small country town destined to a dull and uninteresting life, But, she insisted sending me away for my senior year of high school had to do with a better education and teaching me how ‘the other half’ lived.

School officials did their best to sandpaper away the jagged points that defined my personality.  I learned how to properly pass salt and pepper shakers to the person sitting next to me. I mastered making my way along a receiving line while mumbling ridiculous greetings. I also developed a liking for butter knives, an instrument unknown to me at the time, but now helps me define a really ‘fine’ restaurant.

When I graduated from high school in 1960, I could hold my own in southern social circles, But, alas, there was no great (or even small) demand for southern belles. Those days were rapidly waning.

In fact, times were not just slowly changing; that train was speeding full throttle into the Vietnam War, hippies, drugs, free love, Woodstock, and miniskirts. Eating fried chicken with a fork was at the bottom of most social agendas. After all, fast food didn’t require a knife or a fork.

Suffice to say 9 months at a ‘finishing’ school didn’t ‘finish’ me. I still had lots of growing, testing, experimenting, learning, tasting, touching, seeing, hearing, and living to do. And I did all of that. Some of those experiences were amusing, a number of them would fall into the category of ‘please never let me do this again’, and some would be write-offs, tossed out the window of lost causes.

I understand they were all necessary in order for me to reach the ripe age of advanced adulthood. As I tell folks, if you haven’t experienced debilitating heartbreak, wondrous joy, excruciating pain, and belly laughing embarrassment, then you just haven’t lived long enough. Stay around, keep living, and all of those things will happen to you, at the most inconvenient times.

So, one aging day at a time, I’m learning what being ‘old’ means, and how to do it. Not gracefully, but with determination, high expectations, and pink hair.

If still around, the head mistress at Gulf Park would be shaking her head and declaring me ‘unfinished’.

Unfinished, but still kicking.

 

 

 

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42 thoughts on “I’m Old, but Alive

  1. A delightful post and the best information I have ever read. I too am a senior (that’s what most Baby Boomers call it), and never attended a finishing school. We lived in New York so I was a city girl. Going through all the stages and heartaches that life hands us, Attended parochial school and the nuns did a pretty good job educating and disciplining us. I could never be considered a Southern Belle but I can hold my own at a fine restaurant. I am still learning and will until the day I close my eyes for the last time. Time waits for no one so you might as well enjoy each day that is gifted to you. ☺☺☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bravo for you. You are right, well, maybe left, but we do need to enjoy every moment. I had never thought about it, but do my eyes have to be closed when I die? I remember my grandmother saying, (when visiting Forest Lawn Cemetery in LA, and realizing caskets are buried vertically rather than horizontally) “Be sure I’m not buried feet first, I want to see where I am going.”
      Thanks for the reblog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that when someone grows “old”, it just shows on your body, wrinkles and gray hair .. but REALLY growing old is when your souls grows old and looses its energy and passion.. that’s when you grow old. And i guarantee you, my friend, are far from being old 😍😍
    You’re still young at heart !!

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  3. Sounds like it all has turned out good and pretty normal to me. Enjoyed your post. Thank You. Found you via Patricia Salamone’s blog where she reblogged this on “The Write’s Desk”.

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  4. I still feel that I am 23 (why 23…well I am older that 21) but only feel my true age when climbing hills…then my lungs bring me back to reality. But think about it, I don’t climb hills all day, everyday so there is a good deal of time that I feel 23. 🙂

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  5. I always love your writing, but this really struck a chord with me. I wish I’d had this post to read when I was a lost college student agonizing over my future. You somehow managed to capture the richness of life’s ups and downs with a sense of humor and brightness that embraces all the possibilities the world has to offer. If I hadn’t been so caught up in finding “the right path,” I might have enjoyed my late teens and twenties a lot more!

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    1. You do realize that you would never have read this post when you were a lost college student. You were too busy agonizing, and what does a 75 year old know anyway? Perhaps I’m only speaking about myself. I certainly didn’t have time to contemplate anything beyond tomorrow! So glad you liked the post.

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  6. Loved your post! This Boomer can so relate. I cringe when I hear younger people say things like, “age gracefully,” or “age is only a number.” Just to name a couple of these silly thoughts. In my mind, I agree with them, but my body laughs at my mind. Thanks for today’s smile.

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    1. Don’t you just hate it when your body thinks its funny that you can’t climb trees any more? Actually, forget the trees, just getting up off the floor is a major accomplishment. There is nothing pretty or graceful about that sight. Thanks for visiting and responding.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha! I went to finishing school, but resisted their effort to finish me. I recall continually telling them that if I did this or that, I wouldn’t be me. Guess you could say I failed finishing school. And I went to my Senior Prom in 1961 with pink hair!

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