Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting Old

This is really depressing--you've been warned. I just needed to say it. 

Let me Die a Youngman's Death

Roger Gough

 Let me die a youngman's death
 not a clean and inbetween
 the sheets holywater death
 not a famous-last-words
 peaceful out of breath death

 When I'm 73
 and in constant good tumour
 may I be mown down at dawn
 by a bright red sports car
 on my way home
 from an allnight party

 Or when I'm 91
 with silver hair
 and sitting in a barber's chair
 may rival gangsters
 with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
 and give me a short back and insides

 Or when I'm 104
 and banned from the Cavern
 may my mistress
 catching me in bed with her daughter
 and fearing for her son
 cut me up into little pieces
 and throw away every piece but one

 Let me die a youngman's death
 not a free from sin tiptoe in
 candle wax and waning death
 not a curtains drawn by angels borne
 'what a nice way to go' death

Yesterday morning I came across this heartbreaking article by a woman who graduated from Yale this spring only to die in a car accident just a few weeks later. Her perspective in this article is so positive, so excited for her future, and it made me think about aging.

Recently, I have heard so many people bemoan aging. ("Wear a tee-shirt with these arms? I'm practically sixty!"--You know who you are.) And yes, certainly, there are things about getting old that no one looks forward to. It can be frustrating, demeaning, embarrassing, painful, sad, and even cruel. But getting old is a blessing: one of the greatest gifts we can ask for at the end of a life well lived. In the poem above, the speaker wants to "die a youngman's death," but he doesn't want to die young. All the ways he dreams of dying happen to him when he has already lived out his life. Perhaps he fears the sad demise of old age, but he wants to get to old age, to be old enough to fear it. Getting old means that you got to do life, that you were one of the lucky ones who made it all the way through, who had the chance to go to New York City (as Marina Keegan muses), to fall in love, to create life, to imagine and realize passions. Getting old means that you have had a life to live.

So, I was freaking out about turning thirty? I should be lucky enough to be thirty, and thirty, and thirty some day with millions of tiny wrinkles and body parts that barely work. I have already passed so many milestones, had so many "best days." I am blessed to be a 29 year old who is going to be thirty someday (but not today). I was so struck by the sentiments Keegan expressed in the piece mentioned above and even more in this piece she wrote (how eerie?). I have experienced so many of the emotions this young woman beautifully and articulately expresses. I am not even sure where I am going with this. But, as someone who is thinking about having a baby, a tiny little baby who will come into the world with infinite possibility, I can only hope that when and if that happens, my son or daughter will someday be very, very old with millions of wrinkles and body parts that barely work. I could imagine nothing more beautiful.


  1. Do not worry, Britney Spears is 30 and fabulous and you will be too!

  2. I turned 30 last week, and I struggled with some of these same thoughts (except the death part). It's cliche, but being alive, even at 30, surely does beat the alternative.