Friday, January 05, 2007

Birthday no.62

Yesterday was my birthday, so I am posting a photo of myself at the age of sixty-two. I am wearing a cape that I got at the thrift shop, which David paid for along with another coat, as a birthday present. The shop was full of people, and Lynn was volunteering as saleslady. When she heard it was my birthday, she lead the other shoppers in a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday." Despite the fact that she was the only one who could sing my name (she was the only one who knew it), the song reverberated through and around the racks of donated used clothing in a very cheerful way. I found it quite uplifting. I spent a considerable length of time trying on clothes and modeling them for the other patrons, who offered their advice on what my shopping spree should include. I'm thinking that it was a kind of birthday party not many people have experienced. Later I went over to David's for a dinner of filet mignon with herbed butter, salad, and raspberries with whipped cream. It was a very nice meal and we had our usual good time.

Looking at the picture of me, which I took myself by holding the camera at arm's length, I see that I look quite unkempt and fat. Still, I do not look like the sixty-something year old women I remember as a child. From the vantage point of extreme youth, a person as old as that is quite elderly. It seems to me that when I was very young, people in their sixties WERE elderly. Today I look at my contemporaries and they all look and behave like younger people. Whether that is due to altered perception or the fact that people do stay younger longer now is not clear. In any case, life is a series of lives, each one lasting about ten or fifteen years. When I see pictures on the obituary page of the paper, I think it is strange to show the deceased as a younger person. A person who lives to be eighty years old has lead many lives and been many people. The one who exists at the time of physical death is not the one pictured in the paper. That person ceased to exist, albeit in another way, years before.

Many people appear to want themselves or their relatives to be remembered the way they were before they became elderly. It would be so much more reasonable to acknowledge every stage of life as different rather than better or worse. As we get older, we revert slowly back to the way were were as babies. We start as helpless beings without much control of our mental or physical selves, and many times end up the same way. In the beginning, we are constantly looking ahead to what we will be, and in the end we look back to what we were. Where is the optimum point of existence for any individual, I wonder? Nobody seems to recognize it when it happens.
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