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Ambitions don't die as we get older


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POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009

I notice the expression on the young girl's face. She sees me as a tutu, obviously past 65. She can't understand why this grandma has a laptop on a table at Starbucks and is actually using a keyboard, not unlike the college students at adjoining tables. Kupuna should be at home working on a quilt or cooking beef stew or sweet-sour spareribs for family and friends who drop in. I see curiosity in the girl's barely discernible smile and questioning expression.

Reality leans toward the esoteric where the young lady is concerned. It may never occur to her that many elders have newfound ambitions and enough energy to meet the demands of a new venture, perhaps a small business or an artistic endeavor that provides a financial cushion for later years. Maybe this elder is pounding out a novel. I'd like to tell her, “;No, baby girl, life isn't over when you retire; it can be altogether a new beginning.”; How daring we are.

Perhaps my urge to keep active, to continue pursuing old and new interests, comes from my amazing mother. She raised seven children, prepared countless large meals sans packaged mixes, sewed most of our clothing (creating her own patterns) on a simple treadle machine, even gardened, yet she spent every precious “;spare”; minute creating crocheted bedspreads and intricate ecru doilies for relatives and special friends.

She and my Vovo (grandma) often baked a dozen loaves of crisp-crusted white bread and during certain holidays there would be Portuguese sweetbread for everyone in the neighborhood. They were two of the strongest women I've ever known.

When I was very young they still baked that bread in a Portuguese forno, an outdoor oven built by my father and uncles. Mama exuded calm and was a strong proponent of the adage regarding idle hands, believing that we should take care of our own needs and still take time to help our neighbors.

I LOOK BACK on her indefatigable nature and call myself a wimp in comparison, but I like to think I inherited some of her drive to use God-given skills, not only to nurture family, but also to achieve satisfaction—accomplishments that gave her great pride because she cared deeply and loved to share, from her heart through her hands.

If I've misinterpreted the young lady's interest, I apologize. Maybe she'll read this and realize there are many like me, seniors who want that elusive end-of-the-rainbow treasure which may be there for the taking, the slice of happiness that is gleaned from the accomplishment of a worthwhile endeavor, regardless of age, gender or status.

I would love to discuss that with the same young lady. How does she see herself at 65? I'd like to believe she'll look at her retirement years as a new kind of beginning, rather than as an end to her usefulness. I do.