It means having the nerve or guts to take a stand on what matters to us, and our way of doing things. To me, it means standing up for the right to get old on our own terms as we have stood up for the rights of others. It is a matter of public rights plus private rights, ownership of self. For example, certain neighbors have already started asking me, when am I going to take down my Christmas lights. Visitors have asked me, “why is my tree still up?” As if to say there’s something the matter with it. It is my tree. Who is in charge of regulating when I should take it down? Every year when the questions come, I dig it deeper, keep my lights on and my tree up longer. I am making a statement on things about me that I can still be in charge of. I want to be in charge of what is “Me,” for as long as I can.
I have been talking about buying a new car for instance.
“Why are you gonna do that, you don’t drive that much anymore?” someone patronizes.
I admit, I don’t drive as far as I used to. I have even been stopped by police for driving too slow, but if I want to buy a car and let it sit in my driveway to look at, that’s my business. I don’t say seniors should get mean, but some of us like me have lived three quarters of 100 years.
It doesn’t stop there. A relative suggested that maybe I should stop driving altogether. Now, I am really drawing the line on that one. Even thought of arming myself to resist, but probably won’t. I will not peacefully hand over my right to drive, as long as I know what I am doing and where I am going. We must know something to even be alive at this stage.
I have had several complaints about repeating myself. I would like to explain that too. How do we know we have said something, if we don’t keep saying it until we are sure we have said it? I admit sometimes we might forget, but even that is a blessing. When my relatives call me to get involved with who said what to who years ago, I can cheerfully say “I don’t remember.” When I am reminded of the crazy things I have said or done, I can happily say: ”nope, that’s wasn’t me.”
The one thing I have learned about getting old, when you are in your prime, when you are doing well, make sure you mentor, guide and help those younger than you make it. Because when you are old, some of them will come around and listen to your stories, drive you in your new car and just remind you of all the good you’ve done.