The old age memo that missed me

old age memo
Acknowledgement of country

The old age memo, the one that debunked the myth that ageing brings with it only peace and contentment, seems to have missed my in-box. My image of life in a rocking chair with nothing to do has been shattered.

The memo seems to have gone the way of the one which debunked the idea that people marry and live happily ever after. I really expected that to be true. And the one about motherhood. My fantasy of a constantly calm young woman in a gingham apron forever sitting on a swing with a laughing baby on her lap didn’t materialise either.

Psychological tasks of old age

According to Erickson’s eight stages of psychological development, old people must come to terms with their increasing frailty and possible dependence on others, as well as facing other losses. In addition, they must also look back on their lives and hopefully make sense of them.

The lucky ones develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If they don’t, they can expect to feel bitter about what they perceive as their wasted lives.

There’s no mention in this theory of stages of ageing about ongoing struggles similar those faced by our younger friends and relatives.

Role models for old age

My grandparents and my father presented me with strong, positive role models. Although one grandfather died young (my mother was twelve when her father died) the others lived long lives.

My maternal grandmother

My mother’s mother never re-partnered after the death of her husband. She lived alone and independent, adored by her four daughters, a son and a swathe of grandchildren. Her children visited regularly and she welcomed them and her grandchildren with warm love.

My memories include cuddling in her bed in the morning after sleeping the night in her sleep-out. We walked together from her house to Mass on Sunday mornings to the beautiful St. Joseph’s church. It is now, eighty-odd years later, my own parish church.

As she aged, my parents brought her to our house most Sundays. She enjoyed our family life until late afternoon, when someone drove her home. I have no sense that she was dependent or that she experienced frailty or a complicated life. She died at 85.

Paternal grandparents

My paternal grandparents also missed the old age memo. They lived with my aunt and her family for most of the time I can remember. Revered and respected, they seemed content and calm, the centre of the family. My grandfather died when he was 93. He said that his health deteriorated after he gave up mowing the lawn on his 90th birthday.

After his death, my grandmother, 20 years younger than her husband, built a house of her own close to that of her daughter. The house, though tiny, oozed charm, even magic, or so I remember it. There she lived alone until a cerebro-vascular accident put her into a nursing home. She died aged 88.

Coming to terms with the missing old age memo

My life in old age looks nothing like the one I imagined and no memo warned me to expect anything else. In the terms of the myth, I’d be calm and peaceful with nothing to do but accept the love of my large family. It’s true that I’m loved and respected and I also have a sense of pride in my achievements.

But day-to-day life continues to throw up challenges that almost overwhelm me. My second husband of sixteen years, whom I’ve seen through years of increasing frailty and severe illness, now lives in the care of his family in a seaside town two-and-a-half hours away by car.

I hope he’s happy in his new life, but experience tells me that pursuing greener grass can be a disappointment at any age. The grass is too frequently brown on both sides of the fence.

Meanwhile, anger, bitterness and lawyers’ correspondence pursue me.

Luckily, a life-time of living and learning stand me in good stead. I understand that this stage, too, will pass. Hopefully, I’ll soon be calm, peaceful and full of purpose in my new, single life. Ready, also, to enjoy the fruits of a long life.

signature, maureen helen
image, maureen helen


  1. Sending love. How one’s blueprints in life can be altered without intention to do so is a tough journey, indeed. There’s diamonds in the rubble. I know you know that I know. 💖💝

  2. So sorry that you are facing tough challenges. Sometimes all we can do is rage at the unfairness we feel.Sending loving thoughts & prayers as you use your tenacity to work towards brighter days just ahead..🙏🌹

    1. Thank you for your love and concern, thoughts and prayers, Maureen. I appreciate your care. I hope we can have another opportunity to have coffee, one where I might be less distracted by impending problems.

      1. Any time is good for a coffee, even when feeling distracted. There could be a word that brings a light towards a new solution. When you are ready.🌹

  3. Hello again, Maureen,
    I am so sorry that things have turned out in an unexpected and unwelcome way. I was hoping the situation might have turned around for you, and there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
    I am very proud of you for writing this post; I know it wasn’t easy.

    1. I had to write this post because not writing it made me feel blocked and dishonest. Writing it became an act of liberation and already I feel much better. Thank you for your concern and care. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m confident this difficult time will also pass, as all the other tough times do. xx

      1. For some strange reason, I no longer receive notifications of replies to the comments that I leave on self-hosted blogs such as yours. I think I might need to contact WP and find out if there is a reason and if it can be rectified.

        1. WordPress is full of mysteries and new inventions, Sue W. I feel so far behind in my knowledge of things that I haven’t kept up with, IT-wise. I wonder if I’ll ever recover from my broken WP program. You sound very positive, writing about contacting the company and getting answers. I don’t seem to have much luck with that. And as for Canva, where I used to do my picture stuff for my blogs, they seem to be talking a foreign language now I’m back. Good luck with WP!

  4. Dear friend – Spring is in the air. I feel confident your strength, your resilience, your wisdom, your love will enable a spring in your step to enjoy the fruits of your long life. I am lucky to have you as my friend. EB

  5. I am so sorry to hear that your husband is living away, I so hope all is well with you and your wonderful attitude is still shining bright through the change’

    1. Dear Michele thank you for your kind thoughts. Change is difficult, as you well know. But people like us can somehow manage it better now than when we were younger. I think our faith has a lot to do with the acceptance and management of change.

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