Who’s old? Age is all in eye of beholder

Published 12:09 am Saturday, February 11, 2017

Have you ever noticed that the older you get, the younger “old” seems to be?

When I was a child, I thought my parents were old. And my grandparents—why, they seemed ancient to me. Both my grandmothers looked really old when they were in their sixties. They wore dresses just inches above their ankles and wrapped their long, grey hair into buns on the backs of their heads. They would consider women who dared wear shorts or slacks disgraceful. They would have never thought of coloring their hair or wearing it short.

My maternal grandmother’s exclusive reading material was The Birmingham News and the King James Version of the Holy Bible. As far as I can remember, I never saw her with a magazine in her hands. When my husband, son, and daddy watched professional baseball on television, she shook her head and declared that those men needed to get out and find themselves a job. What foolishness, grown men playing ball!

I sometimes was puzzled when I heard my mother calling friends who were around her age “girls and boys.” When I grew up, I finally solved that puzzle. Childhood friends always stand out in our memory as the young boys and girls we knew in those days. As an adult, I have been guilty of that. One Sunday I heard that a childhood friend of ours was sitting among the congregation in the church my husband served. We had not seen him since he was a teenager. I was a bit surprised at first to see this unfamiliar man in a pew with a young boy who resembled the boy we once knew.

I recall my aunt telling me about standing in a church educational building waiting on her husband one Sunday morning. In the distance, she saw a man coming down the stairs and thought, “That old man looks like Bruce.” It turned out “that old man” was her husband Bruce. She said she had never really realized he was what others called old before. I think he had never grown old in her eyes because she loved him.

I felt the same way once when a young friend of mine referred to my beloved daddy as an “old man.” He was in his 70s then, but he was my daddy and Daddy wasn’t old in my eyes.

My mother forever looked and thought young to me. In her mid-eighties, she and my granddaughter were enjoying a meal when the child informed Mother she had better not eat a certain food. “Because old people shouldn’t have that,” my granddaughter declared. On the heels of everyone’s shock at the statement, my mother countered with, “Who told you I am old?”

Although I know a sweet lady soon to be 102, I never think of her as old. Why? She’s a bright ray of sunshine radiating love. Now that my youth has fled, it seems to me that age is in the eye of the beholder.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.