The Second Half: Refuting an ‘ode to old age’

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader in her Second Half of life, forwarding prose that sings the praises of “getting old.” You’ve probably seen one like it—focusing on “a life of acceptance” instead of “a life looking good.”

These e-mail sonnets are typically unsigned, so the nameless bard never gets credit (but he never gets a million e-replies demanding that he stop clogging up mailboxes with his drivel, either). If you are the author of this piece, please contact me at once for your comeuppance (oops, I mean, CREDIT).

I’ll share some of this Ode to Old Age (note: the Ode is in bold italics, my comments immediately follow).

“I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.”

Are these my only choices? I might trade some of my family members for both luxurious black hair and a fabulous body (no phone calls, people, you know who you are!). And my “wonderful life” could use some work—I’m guessing it, too, would be vastly improved by my luxurious black hair and a fabulous body. Besides, wanting “less gray hair” or “a flatter belly” sounds suspiciously like “I want less of the crap I already have,” still leaving me with, well…CRAP! Mostly, we want MORE of the stuff we’ve always wanted but still can’t afford.

“As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend.”

I have always been “my own friend,” albeit not a GREAT friend some days. I don’t know if I’m kinder to myself, but I’m a lot nicer to my dogs—after the kids moved out, I could afford that high-end dog food my vet raves about, and there are more table scraps for them. Unfortunately, I don’t cook as much…wait, what was the question?

“I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avant-garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.”

1. I don’t know anybody who eats just one extra cookie; usually I polish off a sizable number, often dipped in Cool Whip Free (ice cream is even better).

2. Bed-making tip: buy a big, fluffy comforter and smooth it over the tangle of sheets and blankets; as long as nothing hangs out, you get credit.

3. If a cement gecko is either avant-garde or extravagant, I’m stunned. A jacuzzi on the patio is extravagant; Bruce Springsteen in that jacuzzi would be avant-garde.

“I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. … They, too, will get old.”

If I get the opportunity to travel to a beach frequented by jet-setters, I’ll have my jaw wired shut for six months prior to getting into a swimsuit. Jet-setters get old, it’s true, but they have the money for Botox and tummy tucks.

“I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.”

I notice I never forget my most embarrassing moments, sometimes even dream about them. I did, however, forget to put the garbage cans by the road this week, and I never could remember the name of a former boss when I filled out a job application (remembering “eventually” leads to smelly garbage and missed opportunities).

“I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.”

I am happy to be in my Second Half, and my silver is good-looking enough not to color it. But unless you are laughing all the time, those lines aren’t funny.

Fortunately, I laugh a lot, sometimes inappropriately, and I use the face cream that “beat the $700 cream in a face test,” so folks will still recognize me in 20 years. I don’t want my great-grandchildren looking at my photos in horror saying, “That was YOU?! Really???”

“I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).”

Oh, anonymous Bard…at least you got THAT right. Every year, I like myself better, and I promise: I will continue to eat ice cream!

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free.”

I do not “like” or ever want to be “OLD”—that means tired and worn out. We’re only “set free” if we are healthy, happy, contributing members of society, so I continue to learn new things, eat right and exercise more, take more risks, laugh my head off as much as I can, and volunteer for worthy causes.

I want folks to whisper about me behind my back, “Poor Kathleen, it’s like she’s in a second childhood—too bad she can’t act her age!”

To which I’ll yell from the back of the Harley, “Nyah, nyah! Try and catch me, you geezers!”

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the September 26-29, 2009 issue

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