I Am 90

May 17, 1994|By FRANCES K. SILL

Some years ago our family doctor told me I would reach the age of 90. He did not elaborate to a greater age, but he did say 90.

Once 90 was considered a great age; today, many live beyond, depending on luck, great strides in medicine and how our hearts respond to the ravages of time. I was told I was a breech birth and not expected to survive. Though I've had many illnesses, I'm still here, a tough old bird.

I was born into the Age of Respectability. Victoria had died, and her son, Edward VII, was king of England. Theodore Roosevelt was our president, and drugs were something doctors prescribed for pain. When I was very young, my mother read ''Cinderella'' to me and ''The Sleeping Beauty.'' Later I devoured ''Black Beauty'' and ''The Secret Garden,'' recently made into a movie and now a stage play, very well received. Are people reaching for a gentler way of life?

Inventions have come thick and fast in this century of great change. Henry Ford's invention of the ''Tin Lizzie'' began our colossal automobile industry. My father took mother and me to see the Wright Brothers fly in their little plane. They didn't fly far, but they flew, making man's dream of flying a reality.

In May 1927 Charles Lindbergh, an unknown airmail pilot hoping to win the $25,000 prize offered the person who flew non-stop from New York to Paris, left from Roosevelt Field and landed 33 1/2 hours later at La Bourget. He was a dazzling hero and made our world smaller as flying became a way of life.

When I was 80, I wrote my memoirs for my children and grandchildren.

I wanted them to know Baltimore as I remembered it -- the old street cars, the Charles Street double-decker buses, which took us past Mt. Vernon Place, the Walters Art Gallery, past handsome shops, on to O'Neill's Department Store and beyond.

I wrote of Roland Park, where I grew up, and of ''Guilford,'' the old Abell estate, transformed in 1913 into the suburban Guilford of today. I remembered the packed churches at Christmas and Easter and the Easter Parade. We had picnics out in the country with never a fear of crime.

I remembered the patriotism when we entered World War I in 1917 and our feverish gaiety after the war, the ''speakeasys,'' radios, the spiraling stock market, the feeling that good times that would never end. Then there was the crash in 1929; the Great Depression had begun, and our family, who had wanted for nothing, suddenly had nothing. The following years were bleak, and my first husband died tragically, but slowly my life grew brighter.

I told of Hitler's rise to power, Pearl Harbor, the long World War II, the Holocaust and the atomic bomb. I remembered our excitement when we got our first TV, one of this century's greatest inventions. There was so much more: the civil-rights movement, women's emancipation, men walking on the moon, Vietnam.

My son and daughter are a great gratification in their chosen endeavors, and I am proud of my stepson. My five grandchildren's love is most precious. Four years ago, following a serious illness, I moved to a retirement home, where, in one large room and bath, I made the biggest adjustment of my life. It is a pleasant place and I've made several friends, but it is not my home and we are not the same people. Too much has happened.

On my birthday, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a !c luncheon. There were 20 of us. Tears came to my eyes at their touching tributes, and there was much laughter. Suddenly I thought, my doctor was right. I've reached 90!

Frances K. Sill writes from Towson.

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