What does ninety look like?
"I want to take you picture." I said.
Louise had just whispered to me that she was turning ninety. I was stunned. You see she had come to one of my first workshops. At that time she had been in her early sixties. It seemed to me she still was. Well maybe seventy at the most. That is a life. It flies before our eyes.
In those early days I would have a workshop of ten people in my back studio of the house. Somehow Robert would clear the children out of the house for the weekend. I would clean the house. Prepare the workshop lunches and teach everyone how to design and create their own rug. It was pretty amazing. So many of the people who came to those classes thirty years ago still visit the studio and keep in touch. They were the first people to put their faith in me as a teacher.
When she was at the class she designed a woman riding a magic carpet. I remember helping her create it. Little did we know that nearly thirty years later she would still be looking at that rug and loving it on her walls. She is indeed on a magic carpet ride.
To think that Louise is turning ninety. Still so kind, still so supportive, still coming and bringing a group with her every spring as her has done for years. What really got me was how she carried that same vibrancy and creativity with her as she aged.
When she told me, the first thing I thought is ,"This is what I want ninety to look like for me." Of course there are factors I cannot control and I understand that. I just know that it is my job to do what I can.
I am not one for saying ninety is the new seventy. I know that aging is different now than what it was in our parents generation. I still believe that ninety is ninety, seventy is seventy and fifty is fifty in our time and place. And that each age is comes with it's grace and blessings. I am good with it. My age now, 57 is just that 57.
What I do know is that whatever I want to be at ninety I had better start embracing it now. If I want to be in community and creative and fit like Louise than I had better be that now so that I can carry it with me as I age. Our brain is continually changing and aging well means being open to that change and the changes in the world around us.
In the last year I read the book, Successful Aging by Daniel Levitin. I saw my sister who is seventeen years older than me and aging well was reading it. So I ordered it. And I liked it. It got me thinking about what it means to age well. All my life my sister has been a mentor and an example for me to follow so why stop now. I think we need people to look up to, people to emulate. My big sister will always be that for me. Over the years I have had other mentors and people I admire. More recently they have often been younger than me and I have gotten used to that.
Community is important. I need to cultivate friendships with people of all ages. And when I say cultivate, I mean that. I have to acquire and develop and nurture my friendships.
Staying physically active will make a difference for me. I looked at Louise move with agility and freedom. I want that. I always have to find a way to move as long as I am able.
Creativity is curious engagement with something you love. I will always need something to do with my mind and my hands that lets me express myself. Creativity does not age. It gets richer. I want to hang onto it.
And then there is gratitude. When another friend Evelyn was near the end of her life and in hospital in her late eighties I went to visit her. When I got there she told me how lucky she felt to be there and be cared for by the great staff and have us come to visit. I so appreciated her outlook. She amazed me like she often did. She died a few weeks later just before covid began.
I know that these ideas might change as I age. Still I am thinking about it now. Carrying it with me in hope that I too will be blessed with the grace that Louise has been blessed with as she ages.
I saw joy in her last week, but when I think about it I always saw joy in Louise. She is now and always was positive and vigorous. Someone who said nice things and spread kindness. No point waiting to be that. Be it now.
Thanks for reading. I am glad you do.
- Deanne Fitzpatrick