This is a picture of a Banyan tree near my Hawaii home. I’m sorry it doesn’t show the top of the tree, because it’s beautiful. These trees can be large, and they can live for hundreds of years. I don’t know what is showing there between the roots, but I do know that the homeless often find shelter here.
I found this little piece of writing today. It missed the book, so I’ll print it here.
Darling, I am Growing . . .
(Yes, I’m still growing)
Old? I don’t think so. There are those of us who just refuse to be “elderly.” As best we can we keep up our appearance, fill our calendars with appointments, travel to places we enjoy, keep track of a raft of old friends across the country and a raft of kids, grandkids and great grandkids scattered sometimes around the world.
People are constantly surprised that we can stand up and sit down, drive a car, cook ourselves a meal and eat it without a bib. That’s because they have a fixed picture in their minds of what an older person should be. And it isn’t pretty.
I’ve written before about the sweat-suited gum-chewing blonde who sidled up to me in an airport waiting area and cooed “Oh, I think it is so nice when you older people can learn to use a computer! I’ll bet you are playing a game.” And I had closed the computer so she couldn’t see I was buying some stocks on the market. I smiled and said “Of course, my dear.”
(My dear? I didn’t even know her, but that was what that script called for.)
Growing old takes a certain amount of patience and it takes diplomacy.
When I was a child people were still talking about World War I. When I was in high school Pearl Harbor was bombed and our boy friends went to war. So you know I have been around a while, and my hair has silvered to prove it. but I sometimes look a bit young for my age. Can’t help it. My mother looked young for her age.
I have the advantage of going into an office or an adventure or a deal of some sort and being treated very nicely, but then I experience the surprised looks and exclamations when they see my age on the paperwork, and sometimes a change in attitude that follows.
Do people react to age because they fear aging? I think perhaps they do. Just as some react in strange ways to news of a death because they fear death. Yet the secure and the elderly can talk about their own death as if it’s the weather report or the price of gas on the market. We are going to die. So what?
How do we get to that point? When I think about it, I realize that each stage has prepared me for the next one, so that life is fairly seamless. I could not have settled into marriage and motherhood if I had not first been through the initiative process of dating. I could not have faced sending my children into the world if I had not first experienced leaving my parents and going into the world alone myself.
So, despite my zest for life, I am constantly preparing to leave it, just as I saw my parents leave. And leave I will.
But for most of us, if we’re lucky, we will first grow old. We may grow slower and weaker, remembering four verses of a song we learned in second grade while forgetting what we had for breakfast. We may replace our hips and knees, but survive bionically to walk taller and straighter, and no one even knows about this magic except, perhaps, the airport fairy with the wand.
Some of us will stay vital and active so long our kids will think they are never going to get their inheritance.
Some of us will linger deliciously, enjoying the sunset and then, following its pattern, just fade out, leaving streaks of our colors on the horizon of all the lives we touched.
How does a banyan tree live to be so old?
Maybe because it keeps putting down new roots.