Monday, July 16, 2007

Aging Well

Face it, it's so obvious.

For awhile, I could kid myself and use "products" to cover it up. The more money available, the better the "products" we can afford. But I think I've hit my limit. For every mid-40's woman who can pass for someone in their late 20's, there's an army of hairdressers, plastic surgeons, personal trainers, and not to mention, plain old wonderful genetics.

I used to get compliments 5 years ago, that I didn't appear to be as old as I said. I think those days are over.

I didn't think I would have a hard time dealing with declining with age. But looking in the mirror this morning, it was difficult to accept a few more wrinkles appearing than last time. I think that lines give us character, but I hope for a lot less character.

Awhile ago, I was going through some old pictures of family ancestors. There was one arresting picture of a great, great aunt with my grandma as a toddler. She was one of the original German settlers in North Dakota; she was a homestead pioneer from the Lang side of the family, immigrated from the Ukraine. She looked tough as nails, a fierce expression in her eyes. My first reaction was that it was me, sans a lifetime of moisturizer. Her oval face and the shape of her forehead and hairline was identical to mine with deep furrows that I know that are starting to be a part of my visage. She wasn't fat nor was she thin. She looked like she could plow a field, handle a scythe, and butcher a pig without a problem. Her clothing was widow's garb. The story was that my great grandmother died, and an aunt took care of my grandmother and my great aunts until he re-married (twice). She died while Grandma was still a kid, she had no kids of her own and no one talked about her much. But what a picture.

I had two other great, great pioneer aunts that lived long enough for me to meet when I was about 8 years old. They didn't speak English, only German. They sat sturdily in the living room, sipping tea, talking to Mom in German, and Mom shocking me by speaking to them in German in return. They wore their silver hair back in buns, with hair nets. They dressed oddly to me, in dark dresses with lace shawls, dark stockings and lace up black shoes. No jewelry. No make-up or perfume. In my immediate and extended family, the adult female members never leave the house without jewelry or make-up or perfume. So, it was hard to believe these ladies were actually related to me. They were nice and pleasant, sweet oval faces with furrowed brows that I now realize is the Lang family trademark, along with the funny shaped nose that I sort of have. I remember thinking that they liked me--their eyes followed me wherever I went and whatever I did. Perhaps because they saw in me something of themselves as kids--Mom told me that they had sons and grandsons, but no girls in the family. It was a short visit. Mom's German wasn't really that good to keep a conversation going very long. The ladies drove themselves home in their old but well cared for Studebaker, apparently they were in the Bismarck area socializing with family, making rounds to visit those they haven't seen before they passed away. They lived in a German speaking community that I don't remember ever visiting.

Before Mom died, she gave me long lectures about "not letting yourself go" prompted by my choices of hairstyle, shoes and clothing. And lack of make-up. Mom would quiz me about perfume, what kind that Dennis was buying me for birthdays. I was in my thirties, and was proud about my thriftiness. Now, I realize that Mom was afraid I would go the way of the great, great pioneer aunts. Anything that reminded her of them--lace, crochet, high collars, lace up shoes, dark stockings, long, unstyled hair--she didn't like. I think that there is more to it than old world taste and fashions. These gals were Baptists, and my grandmother went against them by marrying my Catholic grandfather. They might have been really harsh and unsympathetic through the years. Perhaps, they regretted that towards the end of their lives. Perhaps, that is why we had that rare visit when I was eight.

So, while I moisturize and try to maintain appearences, I should not neglect what truly is important--the inward stuff that is precious to God. The quiet heart. The submissive spirit. The discretion in choice of words and deeds. In that, I would really err in "letting myself go".

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