The word I like in that phrase “growing older” is “growing.” I really feel like I’m growing as I get older.
The word I like in that phrase “growing older” is “growing.” I really feel like I’m growing as I get older. Not in stature (I’ve lost an inch and a half in height and grown a size and a half in shoes) but in understanding. I understand a lot more about myself and the road I have traveled getting to my age. I understand more about my parents and their difficult lives. I use that understanding with my family and friends and neighbors. I think it makes me a better person than I once was.
Another thing that happens when we grow older is our hearts keep growing. Not in the physical sense, but in the metaphysical. When I see an animal dead on the road, my heart actually hurts for them. I may shoo the deer eating my holly bushes, but I love them in some deep way. I know they care for their young as we care for ours. I admire their fortitude living in the wild, dodging hunger and weather and bullets and cars. I think I felt a little less empathy when I was younger. Some people are born with this empathy. Mine needed time.
A bear ran across my yard recently. I only caught a glimpse of it, on all fours, making small leaps as it made its way along the top of the riverbank. It was a black bear with glorious thick fur. “My body is a bear,” I thought, a poem coming to be.
My daughter and a daughter-in-law are both pregnant, and due within a month of each other before this year is out. Two more girl-babies-to-be. My heart keeps growing. Others have said there is nothing like being a grandparent, and it’s true. There is something extraordinary about watching your child grow a child. It seems almost magical that we can grow something as complex as a human being in our own bodies. And to know that this child would not be if not for you. It’s truly humbling.
Our town is trying to grapple with the needs of those who are growing older among us. I joined a group called Growing Older Together last year, as a volunteer. I mostly like to drive people to their appointments. It’s a way of getting to know my neighbors better, and also to see how people manage growing older themselves. I want to continue to live where I live, but I know that may not be possible. I see others whose plans went awry with health challenges or money or both. It is heartening to know our community is trying to grow with us as we grow older.
In a gathering at Tusten Town Hall recently, over 50 neighbors came together in small groups to talk about the needs of our older residents. Medical needs topped the list, followed by housing (in my unscientific tally). But the need to stay connected and informed was on every list in the four groups. In our rural setting, we cherish the open spaces between us, but we need connection too. If you’re reading this now, you appreciate your local news source, keeping you informed. Volunteering your time and skills can bridge many gaps between neighbors. It’s one way to keep growing as you grow older.
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