So, I’m doing my aqua therapy the other day, standing shoulder-deep on the shallow side of the pool, which is heated to a delightful 94 degrees. Doing leg circles and other exercises, I was listening to a conversation between two other women, both of whom seemed to me to be maybe 10 years older than I am. I’m 66, so we’re not talking spring chickens here.
These women were reminiscing about their lives, marriages, children, and great-grandchildren. They are at the downhill end of their lives, in some people’s thinking, and maybe even have “outlived their usefulness.” What a horrible way to think about those who have gone before us, helped build this nation to what it used to be, and lived their lives within the law, both civil and biblical in most cases.
The two women finished within seconds of each other, and proceeded to climb the ladder to exit the pool. I watched their veiny, gnarled hands as they grasped the sides of the ladder; I watched as their legs became visible when they reached the top and turned around to go down the other side. I saw the vericosities, the cellulite, and the discolorations that had slowly taken the place of smooth, unmarred flesh and skin over the years of childbearing, housework, jobs outside the home, to say nothing of surgeries to replace useless knees or hips.
Those hands had nurtured, soothed, cleaned, cooked, mended, typed, filed, played an instrument, crafted beautiful needlework, petted the family dog, disciplined unruly children, and held the hands of others who were sick and even dying.
Those feet and legs got that way through many, many years of work and living. I used to make a joke about my own veins, calling them roadmaps on my legs. I’m actually kind of proud of them now.
You know what I’ve decided? I’m no longer going to be uneasy about being old, about sagging skin and age spots on my hands. I’m not going to be apologetic about my grey hair or my turkey wattles. I’m not going to think about those stupid advertisements that try to convince us that life isn’t worth living unless you are smooth, flawless, not an ounce of fat on you. Ridiculous.
Anyone who has ever loved a grandmother knows how beautiful she was. We need to quit being so superficial and see the marks of age as marks of true beauty. They need to be seen as the trophies won by women who have lived their lives in the service of others.
Great is their reward.