Old age ain’t for sissies

Published 12:06 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It was a lovely thing to be asked by an enthusiastic group of seniors, who had chosen my novel for their book club if I would consider driving to their group residence to speak about it.


Well, of course I would, I thought, the elderly dears. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


I’ve given these sorts of speaking engagements numerous times in retirement communities and find the audiences to be appreciative and charming. Yes, with age can come afflictions, and so I keep in mind to project a bit louder, deliver a talk that is energetic and inclusive, and not feel offended if I catch a head or two beginning to nod off. And so, armed with talking points and ready for any sort of ‘Q and A’ to follow my talk, I drove to Spartanburg to both meet and thank this group of 25 who had chosen to read the book—even though it came out 5 years ago.


It’s always a good thing for life to give us an occasional, swift kick up the keister when we assume certain things about others. It certainly was a good thing for me as I quickly realized that, even though I’m not that far from retirement age myself, I had mentally assigned these residents to be quiet, unassuming folks bent on napping, getting a tight perm and looking forward to a chartered bus trip to Branson.


Not only could I not have been more wrong, but after 10 minutes, was downright jealous.


“I’m so glad you came and wanted to meet you,” said one gent, extending his hand with a broad smile. “I’m really looking forward to your talk but wanted you to know that a few of us are going to have to leave a little early during your talk because we’re leaving to go on a hike in a half hour.”


“A gorgeous day for it!” I replied. “I wouldn’t mind joining you.”


“It’s been perfect weather,” he nodded. “We’re going zip-lining next week, so here’s hoping it holds up.”


“Zip-lining?” I asked incredulously. “Wow, I’ve never done that. It looks…” I paused and took in his tall, yet slightly bent frame. “Awfully fast. And so high up!”


“Oh, yes,” he said. “But not as fast or high up as last week.”


A diminutive, silver-haired woman, elegant in her cobalt blue cashmere sweater, leaned into our conversation and filled me in.


“Last week, we went hang gliding.”


Open-mouthed, I took to the microphone and began my talk but it felt so anemic compared to the lives of the people I’d just met. They were receptive and polite and I couldn’t wait to be finished so that I could turn the Questions and Answers part right back on them.


“So a bunch of you went hang gliding last week?” I asked, still in disbelief. “By yourselves?”


“Not quite,” another man raised his hand to answer. “We were strapped in with the instructor.”


I glanced back at the silver maned woman I had spoken briefly with before. “Is that what you did?”


She gave me a sly smile and delivered her punch line with impeccable timing.


“Yes, I got to lie on top of a handsome, young man.”


The room exploded with laughter, I put down the microphone and we gathered in the next room for coffee. It was a wonderful visit and there were further, fascinating tales to be shared.


“We’re so glad you came,” I was told over and over.


“Are you kidding?” I thought, driving home. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”


In a single hour, I became quickly aware that not only had I completely misjudged an entire group of people, but was pretty darned jealous of the lives they were currently leading. 


It’s said old age ain’t for sissies. 


As I’m scared of heights and can’t even imagine hang gliding, no matter how cute the instructor is, clearly, neither is living life to the fullest…