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Too young

Published May 24. 2014 09:00AM

During one of my stints as a volunteer at our development's library, I noticed a small book on the shelf. The title is "I'm Too Young to Be Seventy," and it was written by Judith Viorst.

Of course, I took the book home and read it in less than an hour. I laughed at some of the author's lines, but most of the time I felt a sadness.

Life is precious, and short. Judith Viorst knows that. She captures the wistfulness of old age watching life go by in a heartbeat.

After I read her book, I thought about being 74. In the eyes of my grandchildren, I am old. But, in my eyes, I'm too young to be 74.

People say that age is relative. "You're only as old as you feel," some offer. Well, in that case, I am in my 20s mentally but in my 90s physically.

I'm too old to ride my grandson's skateboard, but I'm too young to ride a wheelchair. I'm too old to wear a bikini, but I'm too young to cover my one-piece black suit at the pool with a muumuu. I'm too old to try to fill my brain with new learning material, but I'm too young to let my mind atrophy. 'Tis a conundrum.

One of our neighbors is 94 years old. She walks her two dogs every day, bakes muffins for the neighbors and drives herself around everywhere. She tells me that her nephew wants her to go and live with his family, but she thinks she's "too young" to do that.

When my mom got lung cancer, she hated the idea of being too sick to drive to the farmer's market or McDonald's. She often told me that as long as she could keep driving and being independent, life would go on. She equated her independence with a youthful attitude.

So, Dr. Smith, what is the exact purpose of this column? My feeble attempt to use a book title as an entry into the discussion of impending old age is shamefully obvious. Perhaps those who tell me that I write too much about old age are correct.

But, in a larger sense, shouldn't we write about familiar topics? Things we know something about? Subjects that fit our experience?

When I started this column 20-some years ago, I was a school administrator almost at the end of her career. I had stories galore from my school adventures. It was easy to think of topics for the column, since every day brought new ideas.

Now I am a retired 74-year-old senior citizen, living in a 55-and-older community, surrounded by elderly folk. The stories are still there, but not as vital and engaging. After all, who wouldn't rather hear about 10-year-olds' escapades instead of 70-year-olds (who truly don't have many escapades)?

So, dear readers, in my mind I am too young to give up my writing. With the help of technology (think Dragon) and a persistence born of immigrant Italian background, I continue putting words on paper.

For those readers who have contacted me and asked me to keep writing, I thank you. It helps to know that people care and are reading my columns.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her email address:, or in care of this newspaper.

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