While reading Dare Boldly’s Sun, Surf and Family Fun, I’ve Got It All, another blogger’s entry for today on the benefits and pitfalls of turning 65, it made me think of an occasion a few years ago when I had the honor of meeting an artist that was still producing amazing pieces of work at the young age of 93. Yes, 93 years young, she was quite a visionary.
At the time I was working in a frame shop helping people find the perfect way to mount their family heirlooms, prints, photos and works of art. This older artist came in about once a month with a few pieces to frame and we spend a delightful time choosing matting, frames and types of glass for each piece. She worked in watercolors which need glass to protect the work and was quite picky about the type of glass for each piece as well as finding the perfect framing to compliment each piece of art.
This particular artist was well aged in a good way. She had that sweet grandmotherly look to her; wrinkled skin soft-as-a-baby’s-behind, thick Coke-bottle-bottom bi-focal glasses, and she carefully walked slowly with a four pronged cane. Each visit, her granddaughter dropped her and her portfolio off at the door then went to the local coffee shop to read so Grandma could work in private without any outside intrusions from an opinionated granddaughter.
My sweet little artist quite stylishly, always wore an open smock splattered with tiny, colorful splotches of paint over her pressed jeans and softly colored sweater set, finished off with the most beautiful pearl button earrings and necklace. At just five feet tall, she gave the appearance of a frail elderly woman but we knew better than to get into a war of words with this little dynamo. We all knew to watch out for her opinionated barbs and eagerly anticipated her quick whit and amazing sense of humor. She was feisty.
I loved it when she came in and I luckily got to take care of her and her artwork. We talked about all kinds of art, people in the news and places we’d both visited, vicariously or in person. She was definitely one of my favorite customers and always ready with a quick smile, a funny story and words of encouragement.
One day I made a comment and found my foot deeply embedded in my mouth. I should have know better than to mention someone’s age. Somewhat awkwardly, I mentioned that I was so impressed that at her age(unknown to me at the time) that she was still working at her artwork. To this comment she told me that she really didn’t see the 93 years, the wrinkled face, thick glasses and age spots when she looked in the mirror; she saw herself as she wanted to be. She went on to tell me that she believed we all have an “inner age”; you know the way you see yourself in the mirror, not the actual age, not the wrinkles and age spots but the age as you think of yourself. So of course me being me, I had to ask, “So, what age do you see when you look in the mirror? What’s your inner age?”
God bless her! Without a blink she softly almost wistfully said, “Twenty three. It was a really good year for me.” She then asked me what I thought my inner age would be if I really thought about it. At the time I was in my early 50’s but after thinking a moment I thought it would be 33. It was a really good year for me.
This seemingly mundane encounter with a favored customer over 15 years ago blessed me with a somewhat unusual way to look at life. My Aunt Kay always said, “Age is just a number. We’re only as old as we feel.” After the exchange with my customer, I suddenly knew exactly what Aunt Kay was saying….we’re only as old as we see ourselves, only as old as our inner age.
Today as I look in the mirror at my advanced age of 63, I still see 33. I hope when I get to 93 I can still see myself at 33.
Oh to always look in the mirror of life and see what we want to see.
What’s your inner age?