A week short of my 22nd birthday I gave birth to my first child. A few weeks later, I looked down at that small being and the realization hit me like a Mack truck: This was permanent. I had been living goal to goal: finish school, get married, give birth. Now came the realization that this small person I had built with my own body was part of my life, forever and ever. The next ones were not as much of a jolt.
Now, at 81, I have come to a series of revelations—the realization of the real duration of “till death us do part” is hitting me daily, as I rise from my solitary sleep to care for myself, all alone. The realization of what that small firstborn has become: a retired librarian! My body, once so young and supple, has grown tired and stiff, and the artificial joints have not fulfilled their promise. Each day brings a new annoyance, a new disability.
Growing old is a lesson in the strides made by women who succeed in all the areas I was barred from by reason of gender. The many friends I have made along the way, and the realization that they too are all coming to the end of their promises “till death.” Rearranging my projects in the order they need to be finished, so that when I part this vale, the most urgent are done, and the others can do without. And like many have said—old age is not for sissies. But each day is a gift, and each friend a loved blessing. Au revoir.
- Margaret Braddock, Mounds View Photographed by Sher Stoneman