Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force. (Dorothy Sayers) Having been, by fits and starts, in no discernable order, tracing my way from birth, I will start on my being old, inspired by two quotations I have unearthed from my newly dismantled office and by the novel I am now about 15,000 words into.
What are these controlling earthly forces? Responsibility for family is the main one, I suppose. Gradually, I am feeling less responsible for saving my children and grandchildren. It occurred to me a while ago that, unfortunately for them, they are probably going to have to save me in the not too distant future.
What are other things that control a woman? I no longer feel it is my duty to save the world. I can even look upon global warning as something not in my power to correct. This provides me with an immense amount of freedom. Looking respectable, even attractive is a control, but I can see that when you are old, the harder you try to look attractive, the more ridiculous you look. As my daughter said, “Botoxed lips make you look like you’ve been punched in the mouth.”
One morning, when she was about 95, my grandmother came downstairs in the morning to find that a thief had come in the night, stolen her old age pension money, and cut the phone wire, so that even if she had heard the thief she couldn’t have used the phone beside her bed. She didn’t seem frightened by this. About the same time, she was putting out the trash, and a swarm of bees covered her arms. She had something like 100 stings. This also didn’t seem to bother her as much as it would have most people. Pain and fear, all controls, were lessening. In a few years she began to long for death. Dread of death, the last control.
I have always wondered if I would be brave enough to risk my life for another. Now, I am pretty sure I would, especially if the other was younger than I. A liberating feeling.