Fierce Old Age: An Old Tire Patched and Pumped to Keep Going

Zenobia Silas-Carson

Last week I was standing before a group of women ( I would like to say my women but that would suggest I have started some kind of senior harem) who come eagerly to my “Senior Talk with Zenobia” class. The reason I say eagerly is because my first attempts at this in our senior community was met with major rolling of the eyes and whispers of “Who does she think she is” as well as snickers that spoke volumes. Those snickers said, ” She is just as much a senior as we are”.

I admit it, I am just as much and maybe more of a senior than the most senior of all, but due to my upbringing, and having a mother who was all over the place socially before she passed away, I learned early on to hurry up and get busy living, because the shot clock might call at anytime and I didn’t want to miss the smorgasbord of opportunities that life had spread before me. I struck up a conversation with life a long time ago and said, “Bring it” and life didn’t let me down.

When I share with the women some of the adventures I took before settling into the life that I have now, they are left with their mouths hanging open like gates. They can’t connect the woman who sits behind the office desk and primly answers the phone, dressed in  colorful frocks from Burlington’s and the one who stands in front of them twice per month to distribute food from our sister contributors and gets her hands dirty in the garden, is the same woman who as a teen, jumped out of a window to get to a boyfriend after my mother locked me in the bedroom, who once wore six inch heels and fishnet stockings as a bar maid and was kidnapped at gunpoint (no kidding) by a stranger and was persuaded (by myself) to bring me back where he got me ( Really! he did!) and buried two children but able to counsel others who are going through grief. There are more horror stories I can tell and more good ones of the joys of raising five children sometimes on welfare or working two jobs and never seeing them. My life has been a regular parade, but guess who became one of the leaders of the band?

I do not tell these stories for shock affect, I share them so that folks will know what survival and determination and a little faith can get you.  I work with women who have given up and something in me keeps pumping and patching them because I remember that my dad used to patch and pump his old tires so he could keep going to work. He never worried about how he would get back. Getting there was the goal.

I ask each lady to set a goal. When the rumble begins about being too old to set goals, the Tawanda in me (If you saw the movie Fried Green Tomatoes You will understand the reference) is fierce. I literally believe that people can be shaken awake and pumped for one more ride. Illness, separation from family, disappointments and grief are the harbingers of the fast track of aging. Somebody has to be the cheerleader, so I guess I am designated.

I stand in the middle of our community room with a new topic every two weeks. De-cluttering can be the subject one week and how to live with your diagnosis could be the next. I emphasize that YOU are not your diagnosis. I offer the twisting of words and the elimination of others. When women consistently say, “But the doctor said” I fill in with, “…But what does your body say…you know that body that has carried you for fifty, sixty and beyond there to wherever you are right now?”

Last week one of our more timid ladies raised her hand and said, “I’m afraid to contradict my doctor” and I was all over her. That’s because in our era, we were conditioned to fear the doctor. After all, he was the keeper of the sacred tables of our pregnancies, our immunizations, and other “lady” stuff. He ( and it usually was a guy, wizened and all knowing) knew what was going on in our bodies and we sat complacently on the cold exam table with either our legs swinging or entrapped in the stirrups while he probed and pushed and decided our fate.

Now, before anyone gangs up on me, there was a time in this world where practicing medicine was taken seriously and most doctors were truly dedicated to the profession, and some are still this way, but the ages are reversed and now our physicians look as if they are twelve years old and what they care about the aging body, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. I urge people to take a little note pad to the doctors office so you won’t forget your questions and symptoms and by all means, do not leave with that prescription until you absolutely know what it does….because many folks do not read side affects, etc.

But, I am off topic. I love bringing new information, new interests, summoning up old interests and more and I see the faces begin to hold hope. As we speak, I am organizing cool prizes and clues to have an indoor scavenger hunt. A lady came to me and said, “I would do more, but I have only one leg” and my loving words to her were, “Then I’ll do a one-legged race with you”.  She smiled and cried and we don’t know if we’ll do it, but the possibility is intriguing. It’s the patching up of what we already have and the sense of discovery for celebrating our “Right now” life that is so stimulating.

You know what? Some of us are sent here to be the one who attends to the others. The one who is not in the race but stands on the sidelines with water, bandages and other fuel so the runners can go on. Some can run the race and challenge the others to go faster. It’s a gift and we all have a measure of it deep inside. Dig deeper. Find your capacity to help someone grow. It’s never too late and it’s always a two way street!


Zenobia L Silas-Carson is a native of Chicago IL  and has lived in Minnesota the last 30 years. She has worked as an advocate for battered women, and those being released from the prison system. Zenobia is also a former elementary school teacher and nursing assistant. Currently she resides and works in a fifty-five plus community where she holds the position of office assistant and activities director. She facilitates three food programs, is the proprietor of Zenobia’s Community Store and in her so called spare time is a life coach for seniors. In her other spare time she is a mother grandmother, great grandmother and licensed minister.


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