HOW DID I GET TO BE EIGHTY? It suddenly seems that life has gone by much too fast, and there is so much I still want to do! I remember thinking that being eighty wouldn’t be any different from being seventy-nine, but I may have been wrong. Truth became very clear to me when I received a lovely birthday card mentioning my “eight decades of life.”
I woke up that morning and decided to do something different, so I made pancakes for Russ and me. When I was young, Grandma made pancakes every morning. I love pancakes when they are made right—nicely browned and not thick or tough. I topped mine with blueberries and whipped butter and maple syrup.
And then I asked Alexa to play Clair de Lune by Liberace. I enjoyed my yummy pancakes, and we enjoyed Clair de Lune five times. It was a delightful morning. It wasn’t so bad to be eighty. I have much to be thankful for—a home, a wonderful husband, and I can still make good pancakes.
Music Has Its Charms
Why Liberace? Simply because I love piano music. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a concert pianist. That was after I saw the 1951 movie Too Young to Kiss with June Allyson and Van Johnson. June Allyson played a talented pianist who faked being a teenager so she could audition for a certain competition. After that, my favorite music was Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, the piece she played in the movie. I tried playing it myself, but never got it all worked out. I did memorize Rustles of Spring by Christian Sinding, all eight pages, for a high school music contest.
I haven’t touched a piano for almost 20 years, but I can shut my eyes and listen to beautiful piano music and feel myself carried away into a different world. I appreciate YouTube and Alexa’s skills. We have so much technology these days. It’s difficult to understand it all, but it can add great enjoyment to our lives.
Aging Has Its Downside
I remember my Grandpa Moats in his eighty’s, sitting on the sofa and clapping his hands together in frustration (which always startled Grandma, and I worried she might faint). He had fallen and broken his hip and it had healed, but he was stiff and not as strong as he had once been. He felt he was just no good anymore to do anything. I understand those feelings now. He died shortly after a stroke when he was 87. He had eaten his morning pancakes just before his stroke, and Grandma didn’t make pancakes for breakfast after that. Even so, I still like a good pancake now and then.
They tell me you show your age when you start reminiscing about family and “the good old days.” But I must share a family story about Grandpa’s brother, Uncle Emmett, who memorized a very long poem, Thanatopsis, by William Cullen Bryant, and he recited it for his doctor at his last visit. He died at 90 years old, three weeks after his birthday.
A Poem About Death
I mention Thanatopsis for one reason. Because of that family story, and because Grandma Moats had a book of poems by Bryant, I chose to read that poem for a high school interpretive reading contest. Even with its ancient English language, its words made a lasting impression on me; and it seems especially appropriate now at my current stage of life.
According to Wikipedia, the word thanatopsis is derived from the Greek word “Thanatos” or death, and “opsis” or view and it means “a consideration of death.” Bryant is believed to have written this poem when he was 17, after leaving Williams College and reading works by other writers about death.
I was interested to learn that young Bryant spent a lot of time in the woods surrounding his family’s New England home, because I also spent a lot of time in the wooded pasture of our farm when I was young. The poem contains many references to nature and the inevitable final rest of all mankind. It ends with a suggestion to live your life so that when death comes you will be at peace with no regrets.
And that’s what I would like to do.
For anyone interested in the poem itself, here’s a link to the complete work: