I AM reminded of that fabulous poem Rose in the afternoon by Jenny Joseph. It begins with “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my money on brandy and summer gloves and satin sandals....”
It doesn’t seem so long ago that an 80-year-old was considered old... and often a rare being in our community.
Today I know quite a collection of 80-year-olds and they are a mightily feisty and independent lot.
Stubborn, self-opinionated and fiercely loyal are words that come to mind, and they are immensely proud of their families and especially their grandchildren.
This week I celebrated the 80th birthday of a friend I have known for almost
50 years. We shared a breakfast together with a group of women.
Joining the group were past members of this particular book club as well as present members.
Within this group were three over-80s, all of whom I have now helped celebrate just such a birthday, and they are all smart, sassy and bright-eyed.
This birthday gal was due to go on to a lunch with friends, dinner with family and more celebrations that were going to continue all week and into next week!
No surprise there. This is a lady who in retirement paints, quilts, tutors a grandchild, walks her dogs daily, attends a Pilates class every week... the list goes on. She could be described as being rather busy living each day.
Any of these women sharing breakfast that morning have fascinating life stories to tell.
All of them are still managing busy lives and families, past and present husbands; some are now widowed, some have experienced heartbreak at the death of a child or grandchild, sorrow at the failing health of a partner or the death of a parent. All part of life’s rich tapestry, as they say.
Here they are, relishing each other’s company, laughing at each other’s stories, enjoying a glass of champagne, and for this group of women, especially those “octos”, finding enjoyment in every day, still dressing for an occasion, discussing the enduring pleasure of a great book, a glass or two of the good red in the evening before dinner... and during dinner no doubt!
I wonder what the common denominator is in this mix of ages, backgrounds, education and histories.
Apart from the obvious enjoyment of reading, what is it that draws a group of women like this together? What is it that keeps them coming back to another meeting, even on cold, miserable winter nights?
One of the most powerful motivations is that every one of them relishes “Life” with a capital L.
Not all are enjoying a full quota of health, some have been touched by the deaths of members of this book club, but they all enjoy meeting others who have a positive and passionate view of life, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in.
What an example our “80s-plus” women are, in our group.
Each of these women is involved in their community. Of the others, while some are still working, most are retired, and all of them are out there, donating their time to various causes– a hospital helper here, a fundraiser for cancer there, Zonta members who support the cause of women and children throughout the world, CASA board members who are involved in supporting members of our community who have suffered sexual abuse... and so I could go on.
I hope I reach 80 with as much grace as my friends who are already there.