I look at this photo from someone’s Facebook post, and it reminds me of summer days when I was young. I can still remember the long process of “washday”, as I helped my mother and grandmother. First, we washed the clothes in a wringer washer (always being careful to not get my fingers caught in the wringer), and then we rinsed them in the big washtub, once again running them through the wringer and into the wicker basket, ready to be carried up the basement stairs to the clothesline outside. In all of my memories, the days were lush and warm, as we hung the clothes on the line with wooden clothespins, and the breeze rustled through them. Once they were dry, we unpinned them from the line, and folded them before placing them back in the basket. They smelled of fresh air and sunshine, and I loved to bury my face in them, feeling the warmth of the sun in their cloth.
This was my grandmother’s life, as I saw it; her days spent working along with my mother at household chores, cooking dinner for herself and my grandfather, and spending time with my sister and me. As she aged, my grandfather died before her, leaving her lonely and confused, stuck in a world which no longer held much pleasure for her, even though she was living with my parents and my sister then. So my role model for the “golden years” was not a happy one.
In today’s world, though, as I age, a whole new life opens up before me. Granted, there are the health issues that plague so many of us, but with which we learn to live — taking our medications, visiting our various doctors regularly, and living within our individual limitations. However, I never realized the pleasures that would accompany these later years — having the time to take care of my grandchildren and to be close to them, becoming an activist for preserving our local history, our forests, open spaces and farmlands, and now, becoming involved with a group working to minimize climate change on a local level.
I am also fortunate to have good friends, good neighbors, and a large extended family, so life is busy. Perhaps one of my most treasured gifts in these “golden years” is the friendships — there is something infinitely comforting and reassuring about knowing we have friends to turn to as we face the challenges of growing older. At this age, we value our friendships more deeply and thankfully. Whether it be a lunch with one friend, or a gathering of several friends, there is always the time for serious conversations, the sharing of memories, and tremendous amounts of laughter.
Who knows what the future holds, and I may very well end my life in a gradual decline to dementia as did my grandmother, but in the meantime, I am enjoying my life with all of its activities, and spending precious time with my family, and my friends — taking full advantage of these “Golden Years” I am living today.