weekly writing challenge: golden years


This weekly challenge is all about age and ageing.

I can no longer remember the day I found, with horror, my first grey hair, wiry and curly in a sea of dark brown hair. An unwelcome guest at any age, let alone at 24. Nothing had prepared me for that. It was pulled out of course but one by one more appeared. It was the early eighties and though henna really had been part of the earlier decade it seemed to do the trick. Rather have increasing lots of brash orange than grey. Seemed the smart choice at the time. And then the grey turned orange bits began to outnumber the dark brown bits and so finally defeat was acknowledged. Grey I was.

And now I like to think a little Judy Dench-ish, but a younger version. If i look anywhere as good as her at her age I will be delighted. I look in the mirror and am happy with my silver grey hair. So few of my peers are grey, on the outside anyway – between them they keep hairdressers in business topping up alternative colours. Not ready yet for grey. I can understand them. For me it’s different. So much longer to get used to it.

The lines mystify me a bit. My carefully lit bathroom gives me the start to the day I need. All looks generally fine til I later catch sight of myself in an unexpected mirror and wonder who the face belongs to that is looking back at me. Surely those lines aren’t mine.

I remember being a teenager and my very eccentric grandmother said, in her eighties, that when she looked in the mirror she was always surprised because she still felt young inside. With the arrogance of teenage-hood I looked at this very very old lady who wore knickerbockers and smelt of lavender and wondered how on earth she could think that. And now I find myself in a similar spot. I feel not much different inside – more experience, a bit less certain on my views on everything (my student years where all seemed to clear…), more tolerant, perhaps a bit less spontaneous, the occasional twinge in one hip. So I feel very similar inside but that face belies that feeling. So I’m sometimes surprised at the face that looks back at me. Surprised but not unhappy. It is a face that shows a life well lived so far – open to more that lies ahead.

My grandmother was always my role model. Eccentric, given to passing fancies and enthusiasms, with a gusto for life and living. Hopelessly impractical, an adventurous spirit, someone you never forgot meeting. Intensely embarrassing as a teenager to be invited to afternoon tea with her in town – because she always told everyone around how clever her granddaughter was – how mortifying. But at the same time I loved her stories, real or imagined, it didn’t matter much, of her life out in Africa running a coffee plantation where enthusiasm was greater than expertise so she saved herself from financial ruin by marrying the local Barclay’s Bank Manager. Such impressive problem solving!

She spent a life challenging the norms of what a woman like her was supposed to do or say and died in her late 90s, having spent almost every penny she ever had, which was lots. Until the last few years was still a force of nature. I really loved her and her energy.

Here a great photo of her in her car which she drove across Africa with a female friend. What a surprise she must have been to so many.


Very rarely do I mind being older. Almost always I am happy to be the age I am and look the age I am. No need for all the things people do to try to cheat time that give them tight faces and foreheads that don’t move.

Getting older along with all my long term friends is just fine with me. We look out for each other, share glasses round the table when people can’t read menus, prompt each other when we forget names or tell the same story twice. And mostly we keep each other laughing, sharing, loving and enjoying the lives we have. Who could want for better than that!

15 thoughts on “weekly writing challenge: golden years”

  1. What a beautiful post. Strangely enough, my grandmother used to say exactly the same thing to me about feeling young inside and it’s only in my later years I totally understand it 😀

  2. We have both tracked small changes that indicate aging, Susi, but I am a little farther along that path. I remember the day I looked in the mirror and saw my mother looking back. Or was it my grandmother, or perhaps Aunt Beulah? Your well written post reflected women everywhere. Thank you for connecting with me.

  3. This is brillaint. Just what I need to hear… I used to get so hung up on the idea of growing older, but actually, as I mature this need to cling on to my youth is less so. As they say, you’re as young as the woman you feel. It’s so true. A great post. Thank you for sharing!

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