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That was then (11/28/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

“This ain’t my first rodeo,” Vern Gosdin chortles. Live, learn, and hang tough. With age comes change. Personal habits, quirks, lifestyles, and philosophies don’t usually carry through from one season of life to another without alterations. What worked for a woman at twenty years of age isn’t apt to cut it when she’s fifty. Never mind the old snapshots of that young, vivacious self in bellbottom pants, a beehive hairstyle, that rose tattoo on her shoulder, and waving a “Back to Woodstock!” banner.

You may cringe as you recall stuffing Kleenex in your training bra, dying your hair blond and seeing bright yellow in the mirror, leaving the house with rollers and a tacky scarf on your head, and that home perm that went fuzzy and left you looking like Orphan Annie. All that belongs to yesterday.

As a wife, mother, and grandmother (all the same individual) turns 65 and retires from a long lasting career or job, it’s likely most things aren’t as they were way back when she was 25.

For instance: She once would spend an entire day cleaning, polishing silverware, and fussing over a fancy dessert for tomorrow’s Ladies Aide meeting; now she clears off the kitchen table, lights a couple scented candles, opens the box of cookies she bought at the bakery, and slaps on her red hat as the girls arrive.

While she rocked a child with an earache or whipped up a batch of brownies, a toddler at her heels, the tears flowed as her soap opera “family” had one of its more dramatic moments. In her sixties, she grunts and huffs with early morning TV aerobics, that launch a day of volunteering for Meals On Wheels, weeding her herb garden, scrap-booking, and catching Paula Dean’s down home cooking show for “yah all,” for much needed comfort food.

She once bugged her 60 year old mother about wearing ugly granny shoes with the thick soles, and those corny sweatshirts with statements: “World’s Greatest Grandma” and “Elvis Lives!” Today, the daughter enters a more slow-paced world of her own, wearing, you guessed it, comfortable but ugly, tie shoes and a Garth Brooks tee shirt.

Back then, one felt obligated to host a Tupperware party so her sister could earn extra points for free stuff. At sixty-five, you seldom respond to any of those walk-in, walk-out gab sessions, where someone just happens to have a lavish display of jewelry, candles, or intimate apparel, and you just know you would see something you couldn’t live without.

Years back, you often felt betrayed in your narrow belief that if you followed the ten commandments and prayed daily nothing bad would befall you, compliments of God. You’ve come to realize that bad things do happen to good people. God answers your prayers, but

sometimes your wishes aren’t His will. What you pray for nowadays is strength and guidance to see you through the rough and tough times.

As an ambitious, healthy mother of little tykes, you felt like you could conquer the world. At retirement, long awaited, you may feel as though you did. Soon, the most surprising wave of freedom comes over you. Despite whatever aches and illnesses you may have developed, as the stress and obligations melt away, a renewed individual evolves. You’re back in the saddle again.

At twenty-five there are things a woman hasn’t realized yet. At sixty-five one can say the same thing. But as a woman, weathered and wise, makes her way through the senior years – she accepts rather than rebel - she tries to understand and not judge - to listen more and preach less. She feeds her spirit, and sacrifices certain old pleasures and cravings for a healthy lifestyle. That pursuit of “the fountain of youth” has been abandoned for acceptance of who you’ve become, attitude adjustments, and a renewed faith in yourself. You are your own best nurturer. This feels so right!

Janet Burns is happily retired from bookkeeping jobs. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com  


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