The Greatest Gift

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The below article was written by Stewart Elliott, who was a columnist at Evansville Courier and Press for several years, “Notes From A Nursing Home.” An oldie but a goodie.

“I had thought of retiring when I turn 90 in November, but you won’t let me. I also get “junk mail,” long
e-mail documents of little interest. They usually go straight to the little round basket, but recently I struck gold:

The Greatest Gift

The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, he was immediately embarrassed. … I would ponder it and let him know.

Old age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I always wanted to be. Oh, not my body.

I sometimes despair over my body. The wrinkles, the baggy eyes and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person who lives in the mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long. I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.

As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avant-garde on my patio.

I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 a.m. and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the ’60s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten, and I eventually remember the important things. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car?

But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

I can say “no” and mean it. I can say “yes” and mean it. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be.

And I shall eat dessert every single day.

 

Hats off to the unknown lady who penned the above. She certainly has the right attitude. She reminds me of the old song: “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.”

Truer words were never spoken. Wanda and I came here six years ago, and it seems like only yesterday. If you have been following me, you know my age, but I’m like the lady who wrote this column: I don’t feel old; it’s only my body that is getting old.

Just stay young at heart, for that is the important key for happy seniors.”

Stewart Elliott is a nursing home resident who writes the column “Notes From a Nursing Home” for the Evansville Courier and Press in Evansville, Ind. Contact him at thepilgrimSE@hotmail.com.

This article originally posted in 2006. Mr. Elliott passed in 2007 at the age of 90.

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