“How old would you be if you did not know your age?”
That is the introspective question I have asked countless times to people on their birthday and therefore asked myself today. The answer is meant to illuminate the personal perception of one’s youthfulness. I have found the reality is more closely tied to the actions one demonstrates. Consider Mrs. Buehler, our neighbor back in the 70’s when we lived in the Mennonite prairie town of Winkler, Manitoba.
She was of consummately sturdy Russian stock, a widow in her 70’s but with the fiber of a twenty-something. My dad, one of the surgeons in town, was called to the emergency room one wintry Saturday afternoon. It was Mrs. Buehler, who had broken her arm. Here’s how: to keep active when the weather was too harsh to venture out, she would briskly walk laps in the basement of her small bungalow house for 45 – 60 minutes. Next, she would put a small chair in the middle of the room, step on, and step off. For 20 – 30 minutes. (That’s right, step aerobics. Before fitness clubs, danskin outfits, and protein shakes.) Only this time, she pushed things a bit, got dizzy and fell off, only to break her arm. Again, this is someone in her 70’s, but that clearly meant more and something different to me than to her.
The years flew by but she stayed young at heart, of mind, and in the body. Finally, well after turning 100, she was considered to have “aged” sufficiently to be granted residence in the local old age home. She is now 107 and the oldest living Manitoban.
Now how do you think Mrs. Buehler would answer the original question above? And relative to Mrs. Buehler, I am at most an adolescent, with more dreams than memories.