Thursday, February 20, 2014

When I’m 93

Sisters Hannah and Sylvia
Few could tell the story of their 93 years – and counting – as simply and beautifully as Roger Angell.

His piece in The New Yorker -- This Old Man; Life in the nineties – invites the reader into his world with three words: “Check me out.” His wry observations of aches and medical adventures over the years quickly turn to the people, places, and pets who have made an impact on his life. A life well lived and well told.

My mother-in-law and her sister both lived into their mid-90s, and while their last few years were not trouble-free, the women were easy to be around. Neither wanted to be a bother, and they were gracious and thankful for the ongoing support of family and friends. 

Earlier this month, I attended a birthday party for an 80-year-old. When I walked through the door of the Philadelphia Rock Gym, where the event was held, the guest of honor was hanging from the ceiling. I wasn’t surprised. I had seen him do that same climb at his 75th birthday party.

Granted, these are not typical examples of aging. But they do exist. That's hard to remember when I'm bombarded daily with messages supposedly targeted to my age: Are you insured against catastrophic illness? Interested in moving to an adult community? Will you outlive your money?

Aunt Sylvia didn’t worry about outliving her money. She never thought she had much, and she was never extravagant. Her habit of squirreling away little bits, through payroll deduction into U.S. Savings Bonds during her working years, stood her in good stead. At some point, she totally forgot about all those bonds accumulating interest in a safety deposit box. But their discovery, in her early 90s, helped to finance her last months in a caring facility while leaving a nice inheritance for a number of family members. 

Reading Roger Angell’s story brought back memories of the 90-somethings and other seniors who have passed through and out of my life. At the same time, it reminded me to treasure those who are still hanging around.

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