Graceful Aging

As we all go through life we have people that we look up to, think highly of, use as our mentors, guides or inspiration.   I have written recently about my grandmother and she is probably one of the people that I was closest to while growing up.  And one of the people that I have tried to be like.  She, along with my parents, have been dead for a while now.  I do still think of all of them.  But I also like to think of my parents’ brother and sisters who are still living.  Part of our trip was to see these folks and spend time with them.


Before I tell you about my family, let me tell you about a woman that I heard of in Louisville.  She is in her 90s.  My friend Allan and I were watching our purchases at Mary Alice Hadley Pottery being wrapped up.  The clerk was using a neat, tidy stack of Courier Journal newspapers.  I mentioned how neat the stack was and ‘did they get press overruns?’  Well, let me tell you, that started this long story about the woman in her 90s, who collects the papers from church members, smooths them out and stacks them,  ties them in a roll, stores the rolls downstairs, then when the pottery calls, hauls the roles upstairs and outside to her car, drives them over to the pottery and then donates the money that the pottery pays for  them back to the church.   The pottery has no idea what they are going to do when she stops providing them with stacks of newspapers.


So now my family.  This is my uncle John, my mother’s youngest brother.  Here he is during WWII.  During the war he was stationed in England.  He married and English woman, they had twin girls.  When the girls were less than two years old, she brought them back to England and divorced my uncle.  He never saw them again.  As a family we never talked about them.

I guess he missed those girls because growing up Uncle John was always a delight to be around.  He whistled, sang, told jokes, laughed and just completely enjoyed life.  He was my favorite while growing up.  I have since found these daughters and tried to contact them to tell them about their father.  One has died and the remaining one did not want any contact from me or information about her father.


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Here is Uncle John on Veteran’s Day, 2013



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He is 91 years old now.  Has a place in a retirement home near one of his nephews (my cousin).  I don’t know all the details but I think he made the transition from his place in another state to the retirement home fairly smoothly, without too much protest.  (I could be wrong)   With the help of that nephew and his wife, Uncle John lives a fairly independent and carefree life.  He is still a very happy person.  Still a little bit mischievous.  Still active and interested in many things.  I could see some of my mother in him.  And I know he saw some of my mother in me.



And these are my aunts, my father’s sisters


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From the left, Florence, 87, Mary, 100 and Pauline, 91.


Florence and Mary live together now, near Florence’s daughter (my cousin).  Mary only moved in with Florence a few years ago.  And only over great protest about selling her house and moving from one city to another.  And on and on.  During the Super Storm Sandy, these two didn’t want to leave the barrier island that they live on.  They were persuaded to go to my cousin’s house on a slightly higher part of the island.  Good thing, since the Aunts’ home flooded with about two feet of water.   With help from my cousin and her husband and some of the rest of the family the house where the Aunts grew up, that my grandfather built, looks fresh and new and nice again.


So the two aunts live there.  Fighting like cats and dogs.  And then happy as two peas in a pod.  When you visit with them, there is always a TV on.  And of course they are a little hard of hearing.  By the end of the trip I had no voice left.   Having strained it from trying to be loud enough to make myself heard.  Pauline lives several states away.  But was brave enough to get on a plane, fly to her son’s house, ride in a car for 12 hours with him to spend time with her sister who turned 100.  We had a party for Mary.


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Here’s Aunt Mary getting her nails done.


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She has her hair and her nails done every week.  She wanted a new outfit for her party.  Mary, Florence and the cousin went shopping for outfits.  The sisters, of course, picked out the exact same outfit.  My cousin had to firmly point out to her mother that it was Mary’s birthday, so she got the first pick of outfits.  Florence could have the outfit too, she just could not wear it on the same day.  (My cousins, the caregivers, have a lot to deal with)


All three sisters are active, very interested in sports and what is going on in the world.  They are not as happy and carefree as my uncle, but I don’t think that they ever were that way.  I can see a whole lot of my father in each of them.  And they see some of their mother and my father in me.

(After this was posted, I heard from my cousin)

Mom and Aunt Mary want to tell you that their father purchased the house already built.

As children came, and he had a little money, he added on.

The original house was tiny- like the camp meeting cottages around the tabernacle. 

Ooh, and although I appreciate the sentiment, Mom and Aunt Mary don’t feel that I’m a caregiver.

Since they’re reading your posts now, maybe just say that Pete and I love them and look after things for them…


I think in their own way, each has aged gracefully and should be an inspiration to many of us.  And what am I taking from all of my visits and their life experiences?  Well, when the time comes, I want to realize that if I need some help and if I have to move to be near that help, then I should.  Without complaining or whining, maybe a few tears, but really, if living nearer someone (who is nice enough to care about me) improves the daily quality of my life then I should do it.  (And if a hurricane or something else happens and my caregiver thinks we should evacuate, just show me where to sit on the bus.)  I want to be the little old lady who dresses with some style but is comfortable.  Who will still sit on the floor and play with a dog or a child. (even if she has to be helped up)  I still want to whistle and sing when a tune enters my thoughts.  I want to laugh and joke.


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I want to be the lady holding the chicken!  (my great, great grandmother)


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