Everything I know about the world can be summed up in three words: it moves on. (Robert Frost)
I just returned from a trip to Escondido, California to celebrate the birthday of one of my childhood friends. He was six and I was three when he moved in across the street from us. He knocked at our door one morning, asking if someone could help him get his boots on because his mom was sleeping. I have no memory of that, of course, but I do have years of shared memories as we each graduated from high school, attended college, got married, had children, and continued through our parallel life journeys.
As one of the few out-of-towners in attendance at the large birthday bash, I had the chance to sit back and observe people of various ages. I was struck by the differences, especially in the older people in attendance. Some of them were quite vibrant and socially interactive, meeting new people easily and engaging in conversation that was stimulating, amusing, and interesting. Others, not so much.
As I drove back home on Sunday I kept thinking about what made the difference in what I referred to as “aging well” and “aging not-so-well.” Those who were doing well were interested and involved in a variety of activities. They volunteer, they belong to organizations, they travel, and they attend dramatic and musical events. They live multi-faceted lives.
I had an extensive conversation with one gentleman who was a retired high school science teacher, and he seemed adrift and lost. His identity had been “Educator,“ and after he retired, had not found a place to put his time and attention where he could create a more current role for himself. He was quite happy to find that I, too, was a retired educator and wanted to exchange classroom war stories. I shared a few amusing ones, but was not too interested in relating to the past only. I am far more interested in Now. It felt sad to me because he did not seem to know how to live Today.
In my experience, I have learned that the people who stay the most vibrant are the ones who choose to change with the times, who have a positive attitude about the world in which we live, and who are willing to change their minds about what constitutes “the good old days.” They stay interested in the world in which we live, they stay involved with family and friends, and they embrace new experiences. They know what is going on NOW. They see the past as what it is: the past.
At a memorial service for a beloved teacher’s aide, a friend of mine was talking about what a delightful person Susanne was. Another friend said, “The older she got, the sweeter she became.” The first friend said, “I have noticed that as people age, they become themselves. Only more so.” I have thought a lot about that statement, and I find it to be ever more true. The sweet people become sweeter, and vice versa.
I drove home Sunday feeling enriched by all of the people with whom I interacted during the weekend. But I am even more grateful for the people here, and now, at home who continue to enrich my life so thoroughly and so regularly.
by Pat Masters