Officially a Senior Citizen
by Cait Collins
I had a wonderful evening. Four of my five sisters and I sat down together to celebrate my birthday and Sis Number 5’s birthday. We talked for several hours about a wide range of topics. Sometimes I wonder how these women who were pests and hindrances and I can now be the best of friends. I’m blessed by their presence in my life.
I admit this year had been difficult. I’m now a senior citizen eligible for Medicare. I kept putting off applying for benefits because I was not ready to admit my age. But when I began trying to put a more positive spin on getting older I found a silver lining among the gray clouds. You see, as a writer and story teller, I have more experiences to draw from.
My generation saw medical science all but wipe out polio. Jets were tested by pilots like Chuck Yeager. We saw Alan Shepherd make the first flight into space and were glued to the TV as John Glenn orbited the earth. My father took us to the airport in Bangor, Maine to see President John Kennedy leave Air Force One and walk out to shake hands with the people in the crowd. In a matter of weeks, the President would be assassinated. The Civil Rights Movement was gathering momentum. Desegregation of schools and bussing of students for educational equality began. TV went from black and white to “living color”. Transistor radios were the rage.
The Beatles invaded America. The Twist, Monster Mash, Bunny Hop were popular dances. Lava Lamps and Danish Furniture decorated our homes. Computers were born and evolved. Now computers control much of our lives. The good old days merged with computer generation. I have history and experiences that provide background, characters, and motivation for hundreds of characters. With that in mind, I need to get back to work on my novel.
On Becoming a Senior Citizen
I dreaded turning fifty, but three weeks prior to my birthday, I met a talented writer whose praise for my writing erased all my depression. As my sixtieth birthday approached, I realized I looked forward to the day. No depression this time, no doubts about aging. Instead I looked forward to another decade. You see the older I get, the less I fear. I have my successes and my failures and celebrate both. I care less about what others think and put more emphasis on what I’ve come to know to be right and honorable. There’s less drama in my life. And I get senior citizens’ discounts.
I remember the first time I saw snow and my first snow storm. I met an English gentleman, had my first and only high tea. I experienced a stormy ferry ride from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, and I sailed a windjammer, hauling canvas and taking the wheel. I recall my father taking us to a regatta, seeing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their bright red uniforms patrolling the grounds. I’ve felt the mists of Niagara Falls on my face, gone snorkeling, watched dolphins play. I was privileged to be elected as a delegate to the state convention and assist in the election process. I was the first female video tape operator in Amarillo, Texas. I saw the development of an industry from back and white television to color to digital to high definition. Alan Shepherd blasted into space, John Glen orbited the earth, and man walked on the moon. I saw John Kennedy six weeks before his death. I remember the Civil Rights Movement and the tension following the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Secret Service finger printed me so that I could join the local press corps for President Gerald Ford’s visit to Amarillo. Computers were huge main frames with data was printed on punch cards. Now home computers, internet, and wireless printers are the norm. I stood in line at the bank while the man at the window robbed the teller. I am a member of Delta Psi Omega, a national honorary acting fraternity.
I have loved and lost, and lived to love again. I stood at my mother’s and my husband’s bedsides and watched them lose their battles against disease. Friends have died. Children were born. My faith waivered and was restored.
I don’t mean to sound like a braggart. The truth is we all have experiences that are unique as well as universal. Our experiences shape our lives and add richness to them. And it’s these experiences that can lend depth and color to our characters and stories. As writers, we should never fear to draw on our own experiences to bring added dimension to our work. It’s easier to write about standing at a gravesite when you’ve been there. How can you write about love if you’ve never experienced it? It can be done, but authentic emotions tell the story best. Use what you have witnessed, experienced and felt as you craft your stories. Your work will be better for it.