“I have had the most wonderful life. When I was younger, I use to think that if I could no longer do cartwheels than life was not worth living. But you change. Every decade has its joys and its pleasures and its fun.”
This is how Carolyn describes her life.
Carolyn is a vibrant 85-year-old woman with bright eyes and a welcoming smile. Her sunny disposition is genuine. She has had her share of tough times in her life, but she chooses to focus on all that is good.
Her childhood was challenging. Carolyn was raised in a household that wanted to squelch her curiosity and sense of adventure.
“My parents were narrow and conventional. My mother was always trying to make me sweet and ladylike. They were very protective of me while my older brother was treated like a prince. I remember thinking that in my next life, I was coming back as a man!”
But like so many times in her life, Carolyn took hold of the reins and chose not to accept a prescribed future. She earned a scholarship to Mt. Holyoke College where she expanded her horizons. While there, she met Hal, her future husband, who was studying at nearby Amherst College. They married and Carolyn enjoyed her years at home with their three young children. When she determined that it was time to move her career forward, she took night classes to earn her Master’s degree. At age 40, she entered a doctorate program in clinical psychology. Once she fulfilled her requirements, she launched a satisfying profession as a psychologist.
Carolyn’s glass-full perspective is particularly evident as she recalls Hal’s passing. Five years ago, just a mere six weeks after they moved to a senior housing community in Newton MA, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Hal set the positive tone, refusing to bemoan the knowledge that his life now measured in months rather than years.
“It was tragic…but in many ways, great. He said that our move had been perfectly timed. He talked about how we had had the best life together. We had traveled around the world and even went skiing during his last months. His attitude was ‘whatever happens happens.’ “
The sadness of Hal’s passing was substantially eased because Carolyn had already become a part of a bustling community. And she hasn’t slowed down a bit.
Carolyn chairs the complex’s resident association. She also happily volunteers one day each week at a local nursery school. An enthusiast for lifelong learning, she recently took an intergenerational course on Virginia Woolf’s literature. Besides offering great content, the class was enhanced by the mix of college undergrads and folks in their 70s, 80s and 90s who tackled the subject together.
When contemplating her own future, Carolyn echoes many of Hal’s healthy perspectives. She is thankful that she can delve into the complex end-of-life issues with her family and close friends. She assumes that, like her husband, she will dwell on the many ways that her life has been a gift. But that’s somewhere in the future and Carolyn has no intention of standing still until then.
“I enjoy being busy too much to hold back. I want to live until I die. Aging is living…so live, live, live!