The Pleasure of Speaking My Mind

Last year, before the pandemic, I spent a few days on vacation with two long-time friends, and I noticed how strong and independent we had become. We didn’t need someone to tell us to clean the kitchen or start dinner. If something needed to be done, we jumped in and did it. But we also knew what we wanted and needed and weren’t shy about saying so. Like “I need a nap now.”  Or “I can’t sleep with that light on.” Or “I can’t eat dinner that late.” Or “It’s too cold and icy to go for a walk.”

It occurred to me that if we were with younger people, they might judge us to be crabby old ladies. In fact, that’s how I judged my grandparents when I was young.  But now that I’m officially an old codger, I can see that old age confers self-knowledge and awareness that I didn’t have when I was younger.  

I remember a bus trip through Portugal when I was in my 30s. In the small-town plazas, old men sat on benches, enjoying conversations and a warm day. Their faces had so much character—lines and creases that reflected decades of easing into their true nature—and were more interesting to me than the faces of the young people, which seemed unformed and all alike.

Like many others, I loved the photo of Sen. Bernie Sanders at President Biden’s inauguration. He was sitting off by himself rather than hobnobbing with Washington’s elite, who were dressed up for the occasion. Instead, Bernie was wearing thick mittens and a sturdy down parka, and looking a little grumpy at having to be outside on a cold day. He was an old man trying to stay warm, and he didn’t care what anyone thought.

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