“Eh, Who Cares? I’m Gonna Die Soon Anyway!” So… Go Play!

Posted on February 7, 2014


Lila's grandmother: don't under estimate her!

Lila’s grandmother: don’t underestimate her!

When my Cajun grandmother got up around 80 years old, she started hitting her bucket list – hard.  First it was a cruise, harmless enough.  But then she ramped it up, going whitewater rafting and even skydiving.  “Now, now, ma’am,” the well-meaning would say, in that tone that made “ma’am” sound not like a form of respect, but rather demeaning – “Don’t you think this is a little dangerous, you know, at your age?”  My grandmother was never one to mince words, snarling in that accent of hers:  “Eh, who cares?  I’m gonna die soon anyway!”  She was not about to let some simpering fool stop her from having an absolute blast in her waning years.

So it made my day to see last weekend’s Washington Post article on a bunch of retirees ranging from their 50s right up to 90 years old, going snow tubing… some of them for the first time ever.

Since breaking her hip a year ago, Margaret Hartwell, 76, has gone through many forms of rehabilitation therapy. But until Friday, blasting down an icy slope at 30 miles an hour in a giant inner tube had not been one of them.  In fact, Hartwell, who grew up on a ranch in Florida, had never in her life skied, sledded or even made a snow angel….

But there were shades of what my grandmother had faced in her spry and adventurous old age, that well-meaning coddling that really only serves to confine and to bore:

“I’m going to tell my kids, ‘This is what I did’ ” after the fact, she said. “You know the saying: ‘It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.’ ”

In fact, even one of the reader comments below the article expressed worry:

I want to know what the children of the lady who decided not to tell them in advance, had to say. I know I would have been apprehensive if my parents had done something like this, but my parents never listened to me anyway….

This is one of the things that I fear about eventual old age: that marginalization, that invisibility, that patronizing attitude, as if the young – who are not in their elders’ shoes – somehow know better.  Sure, some old folks are fragile and confused.  So are some young folks.  But one size does not fit all, and we should stay the hell out of the way of people who want to seize life and really live it to the full extent of their capabilities.

 “I feel myself again. It’s the first time I don’t feel like a recovering invalid,” [Hartwell] said. An active hiker before she broke her hip, she has had to use a cane since the injury. But she had a feeling about the snow tubing, that it was the right time.  “I think mostly people know what their body can and can’t do, and if I had been apprehensive, I wouldn’t have done it,” she said. “I want to get back to where I was — I want my life back.  And today was a good start.”

Hartwell makes a good point about play:  “Mostly people know what their body can and can’t do.”  And isn’t this why we should let everyone – children as well as the elderly – play to their heart’s content?  What is life without fun?

Check out the article, and click here for the video at the Washington Post!


Related article:  Let Kids be Kids: Go Play Outside!