Don't Feel Sorry For Me 'Cause I'm Old

March 02, 1994|By EVA P. MILLER

Recently, deep down within myself, a new knowledge has begun to grow. It is this terrible knowledge that my life is drawing to a close. Though not understanding why this ''knowing'' insinuates itself, in my innermost heart I have come to accept it.

There are times when I try to deny and ignore it, but it always returns. Acceptance of my fate follows. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have to abide by the grand design of life until death. It may not be a good idea to look back on sadness in life either. But the past will unravel in my mind at times as well -- in spite of my strongest resolutions to the contrary.

There is much research, talk and writing about growing old. There are many opinions. At 82 and a widow, still living in my own home, my thoughts of being old may not be the same as those of another in different circumstances.

At my age, there is nothing much that I haven't experienced. Through the roles of sweetheart, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, there has been much joy and much sadness -- experiencing the ''bad'' to appreciate the good.

And, of course, a lot of ''what-ifs'' come to mind. ''What if I had done things another way?'' Yet it is not in my power to foresee or to predict or to change history. Ah, another acceptance.

Do other elderly persons, besides myself, wonder if they are getting more suspicious? When I say what is on my mind, I see (or imagine I see) a certain look on the faces of my children that says, ''Don't pay any attention to her. She's old and doesn't know what she's talking about.'' Many times I feel I am being corrected and talked down to as if I am a child -- even by my own grandchildren.

I probably should not complain about this, because I'm guilty of looking on my own adult children in a similar way. My oldest daughter tells me, ''Mother! I'm 61 years old. I'm not a child. I'm a senior citizen just like you!'' My only response is, ''You will always be my little girl.'' What a crazy mixed-up business this growing old becomes!

We have to keep our minds active and alert to avoid the many scams and schemes to take from us what we have worked so hard for all our lives.

Our sense of security is threatened. From personal experience, had I not been old, living alone and hard of hearing, I feel that my home would not have been broken into and robbed so boldly. Living in sight of the Police Department, I don't think anyone would have taken the risk of entering the very room in which I was sleeping to take my possessions.

Generally, I would say that we, the elderly, become less agile physically and slower mentally, especially in the memory department. However, we're also more experienced, more holistic in our thinking, more impatient with irrelevance.

We have all had different life work to do. And now . . . in a very mixed-up world, our whole schedule has been revised. We inch uncertainly into this strange revision of society's agenda. Longevity doesn't protect us from the realities of life -- and we have our insecurities.

We don't want to burden our loved ones. We don't want helplessness and loss of control. We know that there are times we have to reach out and let others help us, but we just want to be able to accept it with humanity and grace. Definitely, we need the dignity to let others know we appreciate and love them in return.

Independence is the last thing we want to give up. Personally, I hope that I can stay in my own home. This is the place where I feel the most comfortable. Here is where I have my own rules. I sleep, eat and do the things that I feel like doing in my own way and time. If my hand trembles or my stiff knees make it awful to walk, if I nap in my chair or forget my hearing aid, I will not be humiliated. My privacy will not be violated. Even if my finances become such that I can't be alone here, I hope at least to have a spot to call my own -- a private place. It will break my heart to see all the things that are near and dear to me being dismantled.

Some of us are so afraid of not being able to carry on, afraid of disability, that we go to retirement communities, isolated among our age-mates. We may end up playing grown-up games with no real purpose. Of course, the retirement communities require a lot of money, so many of us cannot afford these amenities.

Some of us have given up all authority and responsibility for ourselves. I believe that the worst thing for the vital human spirit is this giving over. Having someone take care of one's most intimate necessities can be very embarrassing. It takes away dignity. It makes one less than human. We all need a bit of privacy.

I think that older people who direct themselves in purposeful work are happiest. My way of keeping busy is keeping in touch with others, supporting each other with correspondence and helpful deeds where possible, reading, writing, crocheting, a little gardening and taking care of my flowers. Just trying to keep up with my increasing family's birthdays is a job within itself.

Thank God.

Eva P. Miller has written a book for her great-grandchildren, and has had several songs recorded, including ''Don't Feel Sorry for Me 'Cause I'm Old.''

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