Leading from a motorized recliner

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By Betty Slade

Don’t count us out. We are the new 65-95 society. We’re not popping on all six cylinders, but we’re still oscillating. People are living longer and have a lot to give. Whatever we’ve done and wherever we’ve been, we are what we are because of it. Even stronger, maybe. There is life to be lived in the last years.

I learned this week I have an 80/90s Fan Club. They meet and discuss my articles each week. A big shout out to Mrs. Ross and these precious ladies. I plan to meet with you soon. This article is written for you.

It’s a new day. I remember my little grandmother, 65 years old, blue hair with finger waves. Always wore a house dress and an apron, she was as big around as she was tall. In her opaque nylons held up by large rubber bands, she stood 5 feet in her Mary Jane 2-inch heels. She looked like a grandmother. She was old at 65.

The days of wondering what to do with Aunt Gertrude are over. She is still barking out orders from her Army days. My Sweet Al reminded me of the 95-year-old lady on television. With saggy arms, lifting weights, the pole bent as she pushed upward 100 pounds. Still competing; still functioning in her lane.

There are those who are born leaders and will always be leaders. They’re still shaping society. They may not be leading the race from the pole position, but they are still in the race.

When my Sweet Al retired at 65, he wanted to putter around the property. He was content. I surely wasn’t. I said to him, “I have no intention of retiring. I’ve got a lot to do; my life is bigger than these few acres.” 

I continued with my art and started writing for the newspaper at 65. I wrote my first novel at 70.

For anyone who has written a book, we know it’s not like planting a flower for a season. It’s putting down tree roots for years to come, writing, editing, publishing and marketing. And who has that much time left? Many of us think we do, or at least we act like we do.

An older gentleman came to our writers’ group on Monday morning. He said, “I came to this group. I have a book to write.”

We said, “You’ve come to the right place. We can help you.”

I knew this gentleman 30 years ago. I remember him as a giant, robust figure playing Elvis and filling the stage at Fairfield. Also performing Shakespeare in the Park, he was bigger than life. Retired, he came to Pagosa with a theatrical background and gave young actors an opportunity to learn.

Frail and in his 80s, he still has a book in him to write. He’s taking the stage now with his writing.

Another writer in his 80s has just released a 600-page business textbook. He’s had years of experience, starting and building businesses. He’s helped others in the U.S. and third-world countries. A lawyer and college professor, he is still shaping society with his knowledge.

A pastor came to our writers’ group this week. He said he was stepping down from his church and had been working on a book. I told him, “It will be hard on you. You’re used to feeding the lambs, standing in a pulpit and being important. Writing is a solitary activity; you will miss those lambs, even if they were a pain. Leading is still in you. It will take time to find that place where you are fulfilled. You’ll be looking for another pulpit. That place of influence might be through your book.”

Even though retired, people haven’t changed, they are the same, just older. If they were a leader, they will always be a leader at 80, even from a recliner with a motorized foot lift. Rich in experience and knowledge, they are still giving words from the computer.

We haven’t thought of being cut short in life. When we dream, we see ourselves at 50, not 80. It is still in us to do what we’ve always done. If we were a shaper with new ideas and concepts in our early days, we will be shaping society in our older years.

Final brushstroke: My book is finished. The whole process has taken three years. I still have the confidence to sign a three-book-series contract. Could be madness. I might be limping into heaven, clicking away on the keyboard and sending pages back to finish the series. If not, someone else will pick up the passion and continue with new life and better ideas.

Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.