By Alice Herb
Having just turned 90, I need to reorient myself to who I think I now am. I can’t quite grasp that I have managed to outlive even my mother. She died one day before her 90th birthday- but actually, it was on her birthday, as she was born in Europe 6 to 7 hours later than our time – thus on the date! By the time she died, she had lost memory of the past 40 years. Couldn’t remember her son, my brother. Had lost or alienated most of her peers, and was virtually blind and deaf. Nothing life-threatening was wrong with her. She was just a stubborn old lady who was too vain to accept either hearing or sight aids. By that time, eight years after my father had died, I had third-degree burns from trying to help her in spite of her many demands and insults. I had always believed that she brought her isolation on herself but that was only a small part of her story.
Now I know. Now I am the stubborn old lady who continues to be fiercely independent and yet am not pleased when I don’t get the attention I need and want! Have I learned from my mother? You bet! But perhaps the DNA is too strong and I find myself in some of the same situations that she confronted. But I did learn some lessons. I wear hearing aids and while they are far from perfect, I can still connect with the hearing world. I have glasses for driving and for those times when I do need “readers,” though I still have pretty good eyesight. I manage my own affairs complicated though they are sometimes. I still commute to my beach house by car and try to walk at least a mile a day, though now with a cane.
I recognize, finally, that when I want to do six different things in a day, I will only accomplish two. But those two give me hope that I will continue to be on my own and handle my life slowly but with good sense. I still have close friends who are all younger than me, some of them my son’s age, and they are precious to me. I annoy them at times but never enough for them to give up on me.
My family is a different story. We have gone through some stormy times but, as my brother keeps telling me, we are all very strong personalities with our own strong opinions and so we often fail to remember how much we mean to each other. Even my fabulous granddaughter and my incredible grandson do not have any compunction about telling me off and advising me that I will never bring them over to my way of thinking. That sometimes makes for very lonely times but I can report that my son arranged a 90th birthday party that was absolutely perfect. The room was private, the food was excellent as was the service, and all of my favorite people (save for my beloved Swedish cousins) were there with bells on. And it was a sensational evening. So though I am a masterful complainer, how can I possibly register grievances when I still have most of my marbles and so much to be grateful for? All of us nonagenarians need to hold on to all of our abilities as long as we can. I always remind myself “Use it or Lose it.” So let’s carry on.
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
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