“Enjoy yourself while you’re still old.” — Ashleigh Brilliant.
While watching tennis at Wimbledon, it was amazing to see a linesperson who was not young, thin and sprightly. There was this older woman with white hair, a much less than svelte figure which was topped off by voluptuous bosoms, dressed in the same uniform as all the rest. I wondered if she might be a relative of the queen or maybe those who organize Wimbledon since she was quite a contrast to the slim, obviously fit young man a few feet over.
That woman must have a lot of stamina and good legs to be able to stand there and call line decisions for the over three hours it took to complete the men’s final. It did the heart good to see that an older woman was considered to have some brains and the ability to do things that younger people usually do. It’s just that so many people figure that if you have white hair, wrinkles and maybe walk with some difficulty that you are of no use to society any more.
There is a tendency, especially in our culture, to lump all senior citizens together in one basket of ineptness, dullness and uselessness. But, as Jon Carroll wrote in the July 1 Chronicle: “Old is used as a stigmatizing word, and it shouldn’t be. Old doesn’t mean disengaged or frail, or lonely, or stupid — it just means old.”
I offer a few who I know who transcend the stereotype. For instance, in June, we attended our friend Helen’s birthday party at the Embassy Suites Hotel in South San Francisco. This senior senior citizen was busy the whole three hours greeting and chatting with about 70 guests except when she was treating us to a tango and a swing dance performed in a beautiful dress that swirled around gracefully that she had made herself for the occasion. She was celebrating her 90th birthday in a way that amazed us. Last year, she published a memoir about her life, titled “While I Still Have All My Marbles” — a delightful read that recounts a very full and interesting life from Minnesota to San Francisco.
On Tuesdays, she, my sister-in-law (who also enjoys playing bocce ball in spite of physical limitations), and I play Scrabble at the San Bruno Senior Center with Ed who is a formidable opponent indeed. He also wrote an interesting memoir of his life titled, “Almost a Century of Memories by a Country Boy.” He, too, published last year. He’s 99.
I must add Salim who efficiently tends Freddie’s Café at the center and who always greets us with a big smile and a hug and produces hot sandwiches and other goodies when we arrive for lunch before Scrabble and bocce games. We know he is often in pain because of a back injury, but he always welcomes us enthusiastically. He also has a Daily Journal waiting for me and tells me how he enjoys my columns. Always a gentleman!
Of course, there are many other senior senior citizens who visit the center regularly and many who work there who are prime examples of “oldies but goodies” who are using their abilities to the utmost. In a culture that worships youth and beauty, athletic ability and material accumulation, it’s not easy, especially for senior senior citizens, to receive the acceptance and recognition so many deserve.
And last, but definitely not least, I must include my wonderful, precious sister who is celebrating her 94th birthday Aug. 1. She has led a very full life. I wish she would write a book about it. Though she is now having difficulty getting around, she is sharp as a tack and is planning on going on a cruise soon with her daughter who, by the way, was also born Aug. 1. Happy birthday Marge and Ginn!
Eda LeShan offered her perspective in her book, “Oh To Be 50 Again.” She wrote: “I offer you a challenge — to go on growing, as a necessary endeavor. Psychologist Carl Rogers wrote there is a choice: ‘Growing older or old and growing! May we choose the latter.’”
Would you believe that now, as I’m sitting here editing this, there on TV I see featured an amazing and quite frisky 105-year-old lady who is practicing her pitching because she will be throwing out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game? Way to go! As Mr. Brilliant quips: “I haven’t told myself I’m getting older because I hoped I wouldn’t notice.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.