Thinking About Aging and Loss

I was reading a feature piece in The New York Times by a man in his 40s who was out getting ice cream with his aunt — something they’d done regularly when he was much younger.

He described his aunt thusly: “Her brown hair had gone mostly gray, but she had every bit of the energy and snappy wit I remembered.”

It annoyed me. My reaction was, “Well, why wouldn’t she?” I mean, gray hair doesn’t mean someone’s not still the same person they always were.

It’s the same kind of attitude that causes reporters to write stories about “grandmothers” doing something that is supposedly unusual for someone their age, such as defending themselves from a mugger.

I know a lot of grandmothers with black belts. Just saying.

I also pick it up in well-meaning statements about “looking after our elders.” In many cases, those elders are doing a great job of looking after the community.

It’s the assumption that an old person who still has “energy and snappy wit” is unusual that gets me. Or, for that matter, the assumption that someone walking with a cane or a walker is no longer the person they used to be.

As I was writing this piece, I saw on social media that Suzy McKee Charnas had died. One person described her reaction to this as “gutted” and that summed up mine as well. Continue reading “Thinking About Aging and Loss”