What Do I Do Now?

Learning how to live a fulfilling life after the loss of a partner.

A Woman Of 76 Walks Down The Street

What it feels like to be a member of the Invisible Generation

And  what do people see? Chances are...not her. A woman of a certain age is invisible.

But not to herself. Under the white hair, behind the lined face, inside the body, a little worse for years of use, is a woman of interest, of accomplishment, a woman of essence. A woman who would tell you, should you take the time to ask, that she has lived, loved, lost, survived, tried, failed, succeeded. That she has made her way along a slippery path, tripped, fallen, stood and walked on.

That the things that mattered to her once don’t matter anymore. Whether the color of her lipstick should accord with her age. Whether her clothes look too young. Whether her hair should be colored so that she could look and feel younger, as if hair color could accomplish that. She knows that feeling younger, feeling happy with yourself, is an inside job.

That what people think of her matters not. That what she thinks of herself, does. That she wishes she had more women of her age and interests around her. That moving to a new city has made friendship in later years difficult to find.

That inside that woman of essence, of accomplishment, of 76, is still the girl of 15 who met the love of her life on a blind date and married him at 20. Who longs for the love cut short by the Fates. Who remembers his gentle touch. Who laments that days or weeks can go by without a loving touch, a hug, from anyone. 

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That should she not pass a mirror, she would not know her age. That the naked body she once disliked is now beautiful to her. That she still thinks of how wonderful it would feel to have fabulous sex with a fabulous partner. That she finds it sad that most people would find that surprising if not repulsive. That our society is pointed toward youth. That to most, a woman of age is overlooked, under utilized, under appreciated for the wisdom she could bring.

That though she is busy with a life she has created, she is, in the main, lonely, and finds it difficult to write the words, much less confess them to anyone, lest she be pitied. She is not pitiable. Merely, lonely. 

That she tries every day to do something good for someone else, most especially those who are in need and do not ask. That she has become increasingly sensitive to the suffering of others, especially the abuse and pain of those who cannot speak for themselves…children…animals. She works to speak for them.

That her children and grandchildren are the loves of her life. That her pride in them as human beings is unrelenting. That she wishes only for more of their physical presence in her life. That having to learn to live on her own and be responsible for herself, meant having to leave their sides. That having learned what she needed, accomplished what she set out to do, she will want to be physically closer as the years move on.

 So, put aside your phone, your Ipad. Take off your MP3 player and the next time you see that woman walking down the street, or sitting on the bus, or in the subway or stopped at a red light, look at her and smile in recognition. One day you, yourself, may be under that white hair, behind the lined face, looking out at a world that does not see you for who you truly are.

  

Sheila Weinstein, writer and pianist, reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years, which led to her book, Moving to the Center of the Bed.

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