The Fine Art of Aging

photo by Kit Flynn.


By Kit Flynn

Recently, Roger Rosenblatt, a truly lovely writer, wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times, “The Art of Growing Old.” Mr. Rosenblatt, who served as a trustee at the National Humanities Center when I worked there, made several salient points that I unaccountably feel a need to enlarge upon. You see, he and I are almost the same age, although I would brag that I’m a few months behind him. The difference is that he lives in New York, which I sensibly left in 1992.

I no longer know what it’s like to try to get out of a New York City cab, but I can tell you that getting in and out of the low-slung Tesla can be a challenge. It deals with my left leg which unaccountably does not want to bend as far as it needs to in order to swing into the car. Is this due to a knee replacement I had in 2008 or is it due to some extra padding on that leg that has unaccountably appeared?

I have no idea. All I know is that if I cannot open the driver’s door as wide as it will go, I have to manually pull my leg in if I am to drive. Getting out requires shifting my weight to my bent left leg, something I am able to do provided I can hold on to the door.

A creature of grace, I am, alas, not.

For forty years, I worked The New York Times crossword puzzles easily. A part of my daily routine, I dearly loved these puzzles. No, I didn’t mark them in pen as Bill Clinton did so effortlessly. Instead, I employed a pencil with a good eraser. Still, I almost always finished them, although the Saturday puzzle was known to defeat me occasionally.

Alas, my lack of knowledge of rap singers and current with-it slang caused the crosswords to fall by the wayside. You try to define “woke” for me – perhaps, then I will begin to understand its meaning. Without the knowledge of current third basemen, running tackles on unknown teams, and the various styles of pop music, I reluctantly stopped doing the crosswords. I’m embarrassed to admit that I am unacquainted with Taylor Swift’s music as pop culture has passed me by.

Stairs suddenly present a problem. In the 1990s I tripped merrily up and down the steps of the pyramids at Chichén Itzá. Today, with the absence of bannisters, I would look up to the pyramids from ground level. Bannisters that used to provide assistance only if needed are now a necessity. As far as I can determine, medical buildings provide elevators for the likes of me.

I’m in good health – yes, I could lose weight but I take a minimal number (three) of daily medications for my age; however, the number of specialists employed to keep me in this shape is growing seemingly in leaps and bounds. I now bless two Presidents whom I used to disparage: Lyndon B. Johnson for Medicare and George W. Bush for the Medicare drug plan.

Rosenblatt makes a passing reference to the sameness in the appearance of featured young actors. My mother once made the comment that it was so difficult determining the differences in actors’ looks – and I, in my unfeeling youth, thought, “How ridiculous.” Afterall, Tad Hunter didn’t look like James Dean who didn’t resemble Montgomery Clift.

Today, I have been known to stop watching a particular series because all the actors looked identical so I could not keep them straight. If you cannot distinguish the hero from the villain, there is a problem as the plots become unknowingly twisted. All the actors now come with beards – and in my simplistic mind, one beard simply looks like another beard.

Gossip columns are no longer fun because I have no idea who the starring players are. I now gaze upon the cover of “People” with no recognition of the featured individual.

All the actresses have hair, I mean yards and yards of hair, leaving me to wonder if they ever ride in convertibles where flowing hair becomes horribly tangled. Every once in a while, an actress such as Charlize Theron prances around in short hair, leaving me muttering, “Brava!” in relief.

Names are dreadful things that inevitably trip me up. To forget the name of someone you have just met is one thing – and understandable; to forget the name of a daughter-in-law is another. Both Google and my computer’s Contacts often save me.

I like technology, especially if it has an Apple logo, but the introduction of the Tesla charger to the Internet practically defeated me. I’m not sure why Tesla chargers need to be attached to the Internet, but apparently, they do to continue performance after the Tesla continual software upgrades occur. All I can say is that it was a trauma that practically defeated me.

I have not heard of other Tesla owners incurring this problem; apparently, they breeze through this process with nary a qualm.

There is also the sadness of saying goodbye to those who have departed too soon. My graduating class of 1959 at Sidwell Friends School, a small school in Washington, DC, consisted of sixty graduates. Today, that number is closer to 45 than it is to 60. I’ve become an omnivorous reader of the obituary pages.

With all this being said, there are advantages to old age. Grandchildren go home, whereas one’s children did not. I appreciate what life has to offer more. Nice sunny days with moderate temperatures are no longer taken for granted. Three Havanese it seems is the perfect number of Havanese (if you don’t know what a Havanese is, the photo is at the top of this article). Handicap parking spaces, especially on rainy days, are greatly appreciated.

Being invisible to most of the population, a topic Rosenblatt mentions also has its advantages. I can wear what I want, I do not feel déclassé because my feet no longer fit into four-inch heels, and I can relish my short hair. My one regret here is that I don’t have grey hair. I yearn for grey, not white, hair but it’s still the color I was born with, except for white smudges at the temples.

An added benefit of aging is this: If you notice a typo or a sentence in this article, one that doesn’t make sense, you can attribute it to senility.

After being an active member of the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners for 13 years, Kit Flynn now holds emeritus status. For five years she was the gardening correspondent for “Senior Correspondent” and shared “The Absentee Gardener” column with fellow Master Gardener Lise Jenkins. She has given numerous presentations on various gardening topics to Triangle organizations and can be reached at
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1 Comment on "The Fine Art of Aging"

  1. Nailed it!
    A fine piece of writing.
    Rosenblatt would be proud!
    Thank you

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