Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The care & keeping of an old me

If you know me well, you know I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about and dealing with aging. I don’t mean aging in my forties, I mean aging aging. Aging with a capital A. And I’ve come to a conclusion: it sucks. And I don’t want to do it. But, God willing, I will, and so I want to tell my kids something. I can’t tell them now or they’ll roll their eyes and tell me I'm annoying, but I can write it down so they read it eventually. So...

Dear kids:

When I get old, don’t dismiss me. Please don’t think I am less of a person because I am dependent or seem mentally absent. Please remember who I am, and not how I may appear.

If my hands shake, remember that these hands hold you and wipe your tears. These hands shampoo your hair and make your favorite cookies and clap for you until they’re red and stinging. These hands keep you safe in parking lots and rub sunscreen on you and wrap your birthday presents. These hands have painted your nails (yes, even you, Jack, when you were two and insisted) and thrown baseballs and played with play-doh and taught you how to paint like Monet or Jackson Pollock.

If my eyes fail, remember that these eyes have seen the words I've read to you since before you were born. Remember that these eyes watched you both learn how to ride bikes and saw you score goals in soccer games and swing on tire swings. Remember that these eyes gauge how your day went when you are still 100 feet away, just leaving the school building.

If I can’t remember things, remember that this mind can tell you where to find a missing shoe or overdue library book. This mind regales you with stories from long ago, when I and my crazy siblings were young or when Daddy and I met or when you were babies. This mind has cataloged and appreciated every moment of your existence.

If I am weak, remember that these legs can power walk to your school balancing an art project, two backpacks, a water bottle and a jacket. Remember that this strong body can ski and hike and ride bikes and swim and jump in waves with you. Remember that, though you’re ten and seven and a half and getting a little too tall for this, this body can pick you up when you’re hurt or even when you just want a hug or you're tired.

If I sleep too much...well, then, actually, I don’t want to hear about it. I deserve it. I haven’t slept through the night since I first got pregnant. So don't wake me up.

If I look old and wrinkly, tell me I’m still beautiful and that I earned every single wrinkle the hard way. And that you're amazing, which proves it.

If my voice quivers, remember that this voice can bellow up the stairs when it’s dinnertime or yell down the block when you’re playing with the neighbors. Remember that this voice cheers for you as you play sports or perform in a show. Remember that this voice laughs the loudest at your jokes. Remember that this voice recited "Wynken, Blynken & Nod" every single night of your lives until you told me to stop. This voice sang every known lullaby to you, albeit horribly off key...this voice lulled you to sleep more times than I can count.

If my ears fail and you have to scream at me to be heard, remember that these ears are so acute they don’t miss one midnight "Mommy?" coming from your rooms. Yes, they’re the same ears that hear when you haven’t turned off the TV when asked, and the ears that catch you saying bad words or muttering at me under your breath. But they listen to you sing (oh, boy, do they) and they listen to you read and they listen to how your day was and they listen to why you’re excited or mad or sad. They hear your whole childhood.

All these things about me now are part of my soul. My soul is who I have ever been: the bossy third grader (shocking, I know) and the high school girl in the Catholic-school, polyester kilt and the sorority girl and the newly employed graduate so excited to wear a suit. My soul is the 24 year old who met Daddy and the 32 and 34 year olds who brought brand new babies home. My soul loves the dog and throws great parties and is a perennial room parent. My soul is my competitive streak and my sensitivity and my feelings. My soul is my laugh. My soul is my energy. My soul is the love I have for my family. And my soul will never age, and never fail me, even when my body and mind do.

So kids. When I am old and do gross things and need your help and you start to feel sorry for me, just stop. That’s an order. Stop. And look hard to find or remember who I really am, and appreciate my soul. Because I can assure you that the essence of who I am will never disappear.

Oh, and guys? If I wet my pants or drool, that’s just payback. I’m probably doing it on purpose just to push your buttons.




  1. This was wonderful, Julie, but you are making me feel ancient!!!!

  2. So lovely. Love the zinger at the end.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. My little boy is only 2, but I think about aging and how my nana always said that her outside didn't match her insides. You are a gifted, amazing writer, and I can tell an AWESOME mom!

  4. Really a guide for how to imagine who the person is inside the elderly person we encounter today.

  5. Rather than being a guide for your (one's) children, this really should be a guide for any one of us to help us view any elderly person we encounter.
    It's not about us, it's about them.

  6. Love this blog, Julie! Keep inspiring me... can't wait to read your Bethesda article! Love ya, Karisa

  7. I just stumbled upon this post and it is beautifully written. It actually brought tears to my eyes. As I watch my parents age, and observe my own life as a parent, I feel so thankful and so blessed...but also need to remember how much I should appreciate them and all that they have sacrificed for me. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  8. Can't believe I missed this back when you originally posted it ... LOVE IT !!!

  9. LOVED THIS!! Can't believe I missed it when it was first posted.