Becoming the Matriarch

Getting old is a weird thing. When you’re very young, the old seem to be a fixture; after all, you never saw them when they were young. As far as you know, they were always old. Oh, you do see photos, perhaps, but those photos seem to have little to do with the old folks in your life. All you really know is that you are young and they are old.

In fact, it often seems as if they were born old, as if old is what they were supposed to be, when the truth is, you were born young. Still, despite what we learn of history, whether our personal history or world history, it seems as if the world begins when we are born.

As time goes on, we do get a sense of the progression of life. We grow older, learn to walk and talk, and eventually we go to school. Sometimes we get younger brothers and sisters, and we are puffed up with our oldness. We try so hard to grow up, especially if we have an older sibling, because we want to be as old as they are. We want their privileges, such as they are. And then, the big birthday comes, and even though we are a year older, so is the sibling.

And so the years pass.

Then one day you wake to the realization that you are the old generation. In the back of your mind there’s still the image of the world you were born into, where you were young and the old were old. So how is it possible that the world has suddenly become inverted?

After Jeff died, I was afraid of growing old alone, but now I’ve gotten used to the idea, and although the thought of being old doesn’t worry me, being old and feeble does. Luckily, I have been able to bypass the feebleness for now (though with my wonky knees, sometimes I sense a less than active future).

I am confused, though. How can I be the matriarch of my family — the oldest living female? There are cousins somewhere who are older than I am, but for the most part, everyone who is older than me — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brother — are all gone now.

And I am now that old woman who so mystified me when I was young.

To be honest, many of my youthful years seem to have disappeared, not just out of sight but out of mind, so perhaps the truth is what I once sensed about other elders — that I am a fixture; that I did in fact appear on this earth as an old woman. And there’s no one who was alive when I was born to tell me otherwise.

With any luck, I will continue to grow older, and if enough years pass, I will look back to this time as a relatively youthful one. The ninety-year old woman I sit with says I am just a kid, so perhaps I really am still relatively youthful.

But none of that mitigates the very real fact that I am not only the oldest living female in my family, I’m also the oldest of anyone, male or female.

Does this blog post have a purpose? None that I can see. It’s just that once I was so young that everyone in my family (and the world, too!) was older than I was. And now?

Maybe it’s best if I stop thinking about this.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

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5 Responses to “Becoming the Matriarch”

  1. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    Best not to ponder it or the realities or imagined realities will drive you nuts.

  2. Estragon Says:

    It’s funny. I’ve always thought of older people as young people stuck in an old body. Now that I’m getting there myself, I’m not so sure. These days, the spirit seems to be aging along with the body.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I feel that way too — as if I am transitioning to “old.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because a lot of people don’t get here, but it’s definitely a different stage of life.

  3. Uthayanan Says:

    Hi to everyone,
    It is my fourth year to continue with my grief. No body can stop every second means that you are getting old.
    The different is that a child is like to get to six years than five years.
    The young couple with their child hope to get their child to grow up.
    But it is not the same with the old people. I am more than 60 years and í am not afraid to getting old.
    I never felt that I am getting old.
    I don’t know but you must accept the life as it is.
    If I am wrong please kindly excuse me.


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