Get The Picture? By Sherry Hopkins

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 10, 2010


Meditation on growing old while not growing up

When I was a young woman I thought a great deal about getting older and what life would be like. My gauges were my grandmother and a school teacher.

My paternal grandmother was in her late 50s or early 60s at my earliest remembrance. She had gray undyed hair kept in a short permed bob. She wore calico print shirtwaist dresses that fell below the knees and sensible shoes. I don’t remember an abundance of jewelry or makeup but she was decidedly feminine. She spoke sternly but softly and she understood everything about me. It was a lovely trait.

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In the 6th grade in 1963 my teacher Mrs. Sims was in her early 60s. She too wore shirt dresses and sensible shoes. She also wore white stockings and kept her knees, elbows and chest covered no matter the temperature. Her white hair was permed tightly as well.

She was more like a grandmother than a teacher to me and I cherish the ways she prepared me to be a woman. Her behavior was not deliberate but spoke volumes to me. She was foremost a gracious and kind woman. Her smile of approval was sought by all.

I had hoped to model myself after those two wonderful examples as I daydreamed about life in my senior years.

But here I am now approaching 60 years old. My body, the casing that holds together what is really my life, me, the person I am, is showing distinct signs of age. Wrinkles and body parts that have slipped from their previously higher state, hair that is beginning to not only gray but whiten are too obvious to me as I try to stay clear of the looking glass image before me.

When I am alone at the lake with only the soft rolling waves or the whispering of the wind, I am a young woman. In my mind there is still nothing I can’t do if only I try. I dream of those things from youth that I know I can no longer do. I find myself looking to the future years and when I realize that the greater number of years is surely behind me I pause in a moment of fear.

What have you done I ask myself, what have I accomplished, what will my legacy be?

For we all have a legacy, short or long, full or empty, good or not. Have I loved unconditionally and been loved the same? Have I treated others with fairness and grace? Have I been understanding when the occasion perhaps called for more than I could muster at the moment? Did I bite my tongue or add to the fray?

I have asked myself those questions a lot lately and I answer almost every one with a resounding no. Somewhere along the way the models I had hoped to emulate got lost.

So in this self-analysis I see that I still have lots of work to do. But I think I still have time to pull it off, despite the pitiful outward signs of my body.

My mind stays fresh and young and full of mischievousness. I can still be spontaneous and find humor in the mundane. Perhaps I shall just stay away from the looking glass and maybe, just maybe, I can convince myself that I am like my Big Mama or Mrs. Sims.

But then I would not be able to wear my “peace” scarf or the “melting skull” t-shirt I just got.

I would have to get longer skirts and jeans that aren’t quite so tight. I would only laugh when it was appropriate and not find humor in things that are just not funny. Perhaps I’ll have to grow up a bit before I hit 60 dead on.

But then again maybe not.

You get the picture.

Footnote: I have decided to cut back on my columns a bit and just write occasionally or when Dear Don or I do something I think you would find interesting. So look for me from time to time and not every Friday as usual. Thanks for your loyalty. You make an old broad happy.

(Contact award-winning columnist Sherry Hopkins at