Didn’t Die Before I Got Old

Daily Prompt: Young At Heart, by Krista on March 22, 2014: What are your thoughts on aging? How will you stay young at heart as you get older?

I think we just wrote something on this topic? Yeah?

Well…I’m sitting in the living room of one of my brother’s friends from his high school days. Yesterday I gave a talk more or less on this topic, and I’d share it but I’m not sure anyone wants to read 10 single-spaced pages. This friend, L, — whom I met because my brother died — is awesome and we both feel we’ve always known each other — and one of my friends from high school, K, made up half the audience for my talk. There were two other speakers, too. It was 9 in the morning and there was a competing session on vampires, so no surprise.

After the talk the three of us went to a legendary “bistro” “coffeehouse” “toy store” “bookstore” here in Colorado Springs. Poor Richards. In the early 80s my brother and his little family lived in the apartment above. These were the great days of my brother’s life. He was a cartoonist who could do full-on animation in the style of Disney studios. He had an NEH grant for a full-length feature cartoon. He was building it by hand. If you visited my brother in those days, you’d have to put on white gloves and paint animation cells. The city is full of ghosts — living and dead — but (so far) none sinister or malign.

So as we ate our lunch we all talked. My brother’s friend is almost the diametrical opposite of the woman who was my friend in high school. I sat — very logically — in the middle. They — we — shared stories in a way I believe only women do. They talked about my talk as if I weren’t there (for which I was grateful because that way I learned something) and then K and I began to talk about our junior and senior high school days. We were both good students, enthusiastic participants in school activities, just generally well behaved and happy girls. We remembered our teachers with affection. K has always been a sincere and “peppy” person and she still is in spite of fate having thrown some very heavy curveballs her way. I’ve always had a short memory for pain and a certain fierce determination to pursue my dreams and take care of myself. L, several years younger, though she went to the same school, had a very different experience. By the time she arrived, the counter-culture (meaning drug) scene had hit our high school. It coincided with the falling apart of her family. She dropped out, went on a long and winding road that led her to return to school and become a special ed teacher. She said to me afterward, “Listening to you two talk about school was really a trip. I don’t think I remember any of my teachers. I never did any of those things; I wasn’t active in school or even interested.”

All three of us are fundamentally kind and optimistic people who like being alive.

I never imagined back in 1970 when I graduated high school that I would ever want to live here again. So when the “Daily Prompt” asks about my “…thoughts on aging” and wonders (no doubt sincerely) how I would “stay young at heart” First, I do not think the Daily Prompt understands that aging is not a thought. The answer to staying “young at heart” may be a bit of software installed at birth. I think it is a combination of strong survival instincts, an optimistic nature, resilience, curiosity. Having taught so many thousands of people, I know this is not part of everyone and it is not necessarily missing in people who live in unfortunate circumstances. Poverty and disability can’t kill it. Wealth and ability can’t make it happen.

P.S. Anyone want to read the paper I presented? It’s truly NOT boring or overly intellectual. It has bits of poetry and fiction, it talks about evolution, rock music, romantic poetry, Hemingway and Goethe. Its title is, “The Heroism of ‘Mere’ Survival.”


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