How to be Old

Guest blogger, Dina Corcoran is back with her advice on old age for our series on aging.

Dina is a writer of poems, essays, and memoir.  She won the Jessamyn West award for her humorous description of the English teachers she’s encountered along the way. Her poignant story, “Adiós, Francisco,” won another.

The Napa Valley Writer’s Anthology includes a description of her hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

At eighty-two Dina now sees life through the lens of the stroke she experienced a year ago.  Please welcome Dina Corcoran with

HOW TO BE OLD

No one tells you how to be old.  There are no manuals.  But I learn from the old women who are in my life.

Old age has taken most of Dora’s eyesight and given her a walker.   To get around town, she takes the shuttle-bus, which is often behind schedule, and today causes her to be late to our Hat Chat Luncheon

At ninety-five she doesn’t waste time being cranky at the bus.   Dora waits for us to identify ourselves, one at a time, so she knows where we are sitting, and then launches into an animated discussion of the latest political news—both local and national.

She arrives armed with a lighted magnifying glass to read the menu, and gets a little help from those on either side of her.  Before she leaves, this sweet lady has something nice to say to each of us.  She is pleased to be here.

Virginia is another Hat Chat member. She has been enjoying life for 100 years.  But lately her teeth have been troubling her, so we help her select something from the menu that is soft and not tomatoey, because she and tomatoes don’t get along.  She used to be a schoolteacher and has a lively interest in everything and everybody.  Although her hearing is compromised, before lunch is over, she has asked each of us something about our lives.  Sometimes she has to get out of her chair, shuffle close to us, and lean down so she can hear the answers to her queries.

Then there is my old classmate, Noel, who has Macular Degeneration and who was burned out of her home in Paradise.  She has made a new life for herself in Grass Valley.  On the phone she talks incessantly about her houseplants and knick-knacks she’s installed in her new home. The beauty of their arrangement delights her.  All of life delights her.  Her last Email to me concerning the power outages was titled, “Ahh, Life!”

Melinda who lives down on the Big Sur Coast handles country living with aplomb.  We’ve known each other since the third grade and have mutual admiration for each other.   Her house is in the wilds, surrounded by steep mountains covered with redwood trees— which often threaten to burn.  It is worth it to her, because it overlooks the turbulent ocean.  It takes a strong woman to live there.

Her latest housekeeping adventure involved sweeping out the garage and finding a rattlesnake coiled at her feet.  She grabbed the shovel, and taking a deep breath, cut off its head—all in a day’s work.

These women teach me that even with the hardships of old age we can take delight in each other and the world, revel in beauty, and be brave.

 

 

Don’t waste time

being angry at a late bus,

Have something nice to say.

Arrive armed

with a magnifying glass;

keep a lively interest

in everything and everybody.

 

Notice the beauty

of your knick-knacks,

water your houseplants,

Delight in life.

When necessary,

cut off the serpents head;

Be brave, be alive.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Aging, Essay, Students

3 responses to “How to be Old

  1. Beautifully expressed, Dina — I’m feeling inspired. Thank you, Ana, for sharing!