Handout 1: Over Sixty: The Good Life Comes with Old Age
By Donald M. Murray. Copyright 1996, in The Boston Globe. Reprinted by permission of The Rosenberg Group on behalf of the Author’s estate.
I’m doing a class project on aging America. What’s it like to be a golden ager?
Not elderly, not senior citizen, never golden ager. I’m proud to be old.
Darn right. See that white hair, these wrinkles, listen to how my knee squeaks.
You like that?
Sure, anyone can be young, have elastic skin, bounce, innocence, naiveté. You have to be old to have wrinkles, a white beard, joints that talk, wisdom.
Why are you proud of your, well, uh, ailments?
Are you proud of that tattoo of a bug on your shoulder, that ring in your nose?
Well, I belong. I mean all my friends…
All my friends creak, have white hair, flapping skin folds, walk funny.
Kinda like a shuffle?
It’s a dance, sorta.
Is it hard to learn?
No, it comes with wisdom.
Well, you step right along as if you know the sidewalk will always be there. We know better.
What do you mean?
When you’ve lived a long time you know about land mines, pot-holes, loss, uncertainty. We feel our way along.
What’s so great about being old?
A large part of it. Morning is always a surprise.
You mean you might’ve died in your bed? That’s weird.
Very weird. We survived. That’s what we did. We stayed around.
What did you survive?
Being young’s one thing. I wouldn’t want to be young.
Who are you going to date Saturday night?
Hang with? Enter into a meaningful relationship with?
I dunno. Maybe Hugo, Ernest, Howard, Who knows?
I know. Minnie Mae. I don’t have to hang out in singles bars, sit by the phone. Worry about safe sex.
Yep. Very safe sex. Dignified.
Well, I mean, let’s talk about other things. What do you do, being old?
Go to the bank, the Post Office, supermarket.
Five or six times a week,
What about the other days? Do you ever have fun?
Great fun. Yesterday Minnie Mae, our friend Barbara and I went to see The Truth About Cats & Dogs—good film and the 2:20 matinee was cheap. Then we went to BG’s Boathouse Restaurant down by the water in Portsmouth, just opened for the season. Beautiful spot. I had swordfish; Minnie Mae, Maine crab; Barbara, clams. We were home at 6.
No, on the way home we drove around two real estate developments, saw the new houses being built.
You call that a life?
If you’re lucky, you’ll survive youth and middle age, then you’ll find out what good living really is.
Well, thanks, I think.
Don’t worry, you’ll be lucky, get white hair, wrinkles, flesh sag; shuffle, become wise, happy in your time.
What about my nose ring?