My Great-aunt Beulah gardened in her husband’s galoshes, talked too loud, laughed too hard, cussed a bit, and one day held me gently against her ample girth until I quit crying. An unhappy teenager, I was spending the night with her after going to a party with friends I’d left behind when my family moved to a nearby town. “It’s not the same anymore,” I sobbed. “I feel like I don’t belong either place.”
She said nothing, just held on and listened.
“Beulah’s a bit rough around the edges,” I overheard a hoity-toity second cousin remark at a family reunion. I knew better. Aunt Beulah was soft, quiet, and kind when it mattered.
So I took the name of an aunt I loved to represent all the adults in my life who provided a model of aging well, even as they struggled with difficulties and demons of their own: the good men and women who consistently nudged me toward maturity while I avoided chores, succumbed to peer pressure, and fell in love with ne’er-do-wells.
Watching the important adults in my life, I learned that to age well we must live well: cherish our friends and loved ones, nurture our bodies and minds, utilize our talents and skills, do some good in the world, develop financial fitness, and indulge in laughter and small pleasures.
For me, growing old with a modicum of grace was a journey filled with potholes; but as I bounced around from year to year, I learned a few things: flossing makes a difference; arguments with the IRS can be won; and we should try to live well no matter where we are in the arc of life.