Dear Annie: I was the one who set off a whole flurry of responses because I wrote that I hated being old, hated the wrinkles and hated the condescension and obligatory solicitousness that people showed to old people just because they were old. I said I hated looking old because I think some people react to one's aged appearance as others react to skin color or religion-required apparel. My point was that people should not act toward others based on appearances.
One woman wrote that she felt that she had earned her wrinkles (by hard work and living a life she was proud of, we assume). I, too, have lived a life of which I am proud. I worked hard for my family, held a place of respect in the community, was successful in my career and did whatever I could to help others. I didn't do it so I could earn anything, but if I were to do it to earn something, it would be stars in my heavenly crown or good karma, certainly not wrinkles. I still think they are ugly. Rewards should be good, not ugly. I got wrinkled because I didn't die young. Not dying young was the reward, not wrinkles.
Another reader said having people give us (old people) seats or treating us with deference is respect for our age. I do not want to be treated with respect just because I am old. I like to think that when I am treated with respect, it is because I have earned it -- not simply for staying alive.
The letter that precipitated my writing again was a woman who was "continuing to be kind." I love kindness, and I love being kind to people. I love when we humans connect with strangers by letting them go in front of us in line when they look like they're in a hurry, or turning in a wallet accidentally left on a counter, or paying for the person behind you in a drive-thru.
I love life! I love random kindnesses by fellow human beings. I love having survived to be this age. I love it when you hold a door for me because I have packages. Just don't do it out of obligation because I am old. — Loving My Life in Vermont
Dear Loving Life: Thank you for taking the time to respond to those other readers' reactions to your initial letter. I think the message is very clear from everyone who wrote in; namely, that they love life and are grateful to have lived long enough to know some of the pros and cons that come with aging.
Dear Annie: My husband and I grew up in large extended families, and we are delighted that our son's daughter gets to do that too, on her mother's side. That we don't see her much on the holidays isn't important. What's important is that she is surrounded by a loving family of many aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins. When "Soon-To-Be-Grandma's" grandchild is born, there will be lots of opportunities to help out. You were spot on to tell her that the question isn't how can her son pay more attention to her, but how can she be helpful to her son. I wish her all joy during the times she is with her son and her future grandchild and hope she doesn't have resentment during the times she is not with them. — Grandma Already
Dear Grandma: You are very kind to wish her all the joy that she will experience as a grandmother.
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