Going Gracefully into That Good Night… Reflections on the art of aging

By on August 9, 2014
Kate Hepburn

By Jennifer Molton –

In 1965 when I was eleven years old, I stood on the sidewalk of Mansfield Road in Storrs, Connecticut and watched as a gray haired woman came rolling toward me on a fat-tired bicycle.  I was riveted by the image, not only because it was a grown up on a bicycle (something that was seldom seen back in the ‘60’s) but that this woman looked to be about the age of my grandmother.

As she came closer I noticed she was wearing a plaid kilt skirt and matching blazer, penny loafers, gray wool stockings and a navy blue beret.  But the most memorable things she was wearing were the pink cheeks of good health and a beautiful smile as she gave me a cheery hello and rolled by on her way to who knew where.

I can remember very plainly saying to myself, “What a beautiful old lady!” What I must have sensed, although not clearly enough to verbalize it at that tender age, was her energy, vitality, love of life, and obvious self-acceptance.  Remember Kate Hepburn in “On Golden Pond”? She was that kind of beautiful. I never forgot her, her joie de vivre; one of those exceptional women who at any age maintain that spark of beauty that renders wrinkles and gray hair invisible. She was one of those rare, lovely birds truly aging gracefully.

I wish I could tell her today what that moment in time meant to me as a young girl on the verge of adolescence, and what it means to me now at age 60.

Aging is a fact of life with which anyone who is privileged to live long enough must reconcile.

Marianne Williamson, in her book The Age of Miracles – Embracing the New Midlife shares that “finally growing up” is one of the byproducts of reconciling with and honoring the aging process. As an example, several years ago a story was broadcast describing the near-fatal, out-of-control behavior of a gaunt and distressed, well-known movie star in her early 50’s, who was hospitalized after overdosing on a recreational intoxicant inhalant popular with the younger, drug taking set. All this was happening while she was going through a divorce from her husband, fifteen years her junior, and for whom, along with the youth-worshipping industry in which she works, she appeared to require maintaining a forever-young appeal. Later, in rehab, and likely in counseling, I hoped this lovely and talented woman had found a therapist who could help her learn to love herself through a challenging time and into the future. God bless her in her accepting of all stages of her life, and so many more like her, including me.

In closing, my mother, nearly 85, once told me that her 50’s and 60’s were her most vital years. This statement helps me to remember to stay in the present and appreciate all of life’s phases, and as I enter my 60’s to be ever-mindful that true beauty comes with a smile and a thankful heart, not with an injection, lift or tuck. We never know when a young boy or girl might cross our paths and in a twinkling of an eye change their whole concept of getting “old”, and when they reach that threshold in time themselves, find that “old” is alive, old is witty, old is wise, old is strong, old is sexy, and yes, old is beautiful!

After a 30-year career as an advertising executive, at age 60 Jennifer Molton is enjoying life as a freelance writer and illustrator in the Sedona, Arizona area.  For information contact [email protected] and see http://jennifermolton.carbonmade.com/

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Going Gracefully into That Good Night… Reflections on the art of aging