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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: June 17, 2020

Aging Gracefully

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I recently turned 64 and find myself wondering where the years have flown. I guess I am elderly, but I don't feel all that different than I did in my 50's. Then, while shaving my legs for shorts season, I suddenly noticed that I have wrinkles up above my knees.

I have accepted the facial wrinkles " almost trophies of the laughing and crying I've done through my life. And I don't like the age spots, but I also accept that having them is my own fault. (The lesson for younger people is that sun block is your friend!) I find the commercials on TV for skin creams that remove or reduce wrinkles entertaining. I don't need skin cream, I need caulk to fill my crevices!

But the knee wrinkles caused me to pause and reflect a bit. I have to admit it took me aback. My family and friends won't care at all, in fact won't notice. But for some reason, this little change had an impact on me.

It made me grateful. I am fortunate. My legs might be wrinkled, but they work great. Not everyone is as lucky.

It made me think about what "aging gracefully" means to me. To define it, I think about some women who I think aged with grace, and what it is about them I admire.

A famous woman who is aging with a style I admire is Queen Elizabeth of Britain. On her recent birthday, when she turned 94, she celebrated in part with a horseback ride on a lovely little Welsh Cob. She had on a headscarf, to avoid messing up her hair. She's still an active horsewoman, and makes sure her hair still looks good when she dismounts, and that is worthy of respect. Believe me, it takes strong legs to ride a horse!

My late maternal great-aunt Viola used to commute 20 years ago or more from her home in Green Bay to Florida for the winters, driving back and forth alone until she was nearly 80. She always had a man's suitcoat hanging on a hanger in her back seat, and a short section of pipe in a stocking on the front seat next to her. The suitcoat was to discourage anyone who thought she was a woman traveling alone, and the pipe was in case the suitcoat wasn't enough to deter some rouge man. She didn't let her fear keep her off the road; she just planned risk mitigation, and proceeded. She was fierce.

It's hard not to admire Betty White, the actress, who is 98. I don't pay attention to TV or actresses, but the few times I did see her, she was always very positive and funny. I saw her on TV once last year and she's still a hoot. She's also a kind and generous person with her time and money who is an active supporter of animal rights and animal conservation. I hope I can maintain a sense of humor like her as I age, and do what I can to support causes I believe in until the end.

Jane Goodall may be the living woman I most admire. She is 86 and has done ground-breaking work in the acceptance of woman scientists. She is most well-known for her landmark studies in Africa with chimpanzees, but her humanitarian work is also noteworthy. Jane clearly understands and can articulate convincingly that you can't save the animals and their unique environment, without considering the needs of nearby humans. Her work in line with this insightful principle resulted in the people impacted by chimp conservation efforts clearly benefitting more from protecting threatened animals than from killing them, resulting in a win " win solution. Jane consistently carries a positive message of hope despite the grim circumstances of many of the world's animal species, and she has a special connection to children, the best hope for our planet and its animals. When I look at a picture of Jane, I see a stunningly beautiful woman " both in her physical appearance and also in her compassionate heart.

When I think about these women, I am not thinking about grey hair, age spots, or knee wrinkles. I am thinking about women who are or were confident, positive and independent.

Aging is a completely natural process. You can fight it with face lifts, hair color, liposuction, Botox shots and all kinds of other artificial interventions. There's probably some millionaire doctor in Dallas doing "above-the-knee wrinkle removals." But I won't be calling her. I'm happy and fortunate the way I am. And I am inspired by women who did and do a lot of impressive things after the age of 64, leg wrinkles and all.

Happy Father's Day to all our fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, father figures and male mentors.

Current read: "The Second Chance Club" by Jason Hardy. A gut-wrenching book written by a former Probation and Parole officer who worked out of New Orleans. A hard look at life after prison, and how we could be managing prisoners much better to the great benefit of society.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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