Is old age a curse or a blessing? Unlike the understanding of days past, current opinion seems
to come down on the side of it being a curse. But the writer of this engaging book would not agree. Writing in her eighties, while living in an aged care facility, she acknowledges that life in old age is no bed of roses, but points out that there is no time of life which has neither griefs nor challenges, and that while we can't reliably choose what life will send us, we can choose what we will do with it, and what we will make of it.
She regards the proper occupation of old age as being the mining of the accumulated memories and learnings of a lifetime in order to winnow out some wisdom, nourishment and pleasures for herself, and to share with others. In all this she acknowledges her awareness and appreciation of the steadfastly loving God who continues to enlighten her, and to give her the gift of Time in which to explore, discover, and continue living and learning.
More a memoir than an autobiography, the work began when she set about putting in order the poems she had written over the last twenty years. Seeing how much they told of her life story, she filled in the gaps with narrative, written with wit, good humour, compassion
and transparent honesty. It may not always be accurate in detail (old people sometimes forget details) but is always truthful, and dedicated to reality. The poetry is significant. In its capacity for ambiguity, shades of parallel meaning may be expressed and one word may open a door to a whole world.
A major problem in old age is the maintenance of autonomy and a sense of personal value while living in a culture which abhors and fears the very word old. 'Say you are 70 years young!' they urge, 'Never admit your age! Hide the signs that you have lived a long time, the wrinkles and the grey hair.' Nan has plenty of both, and says of herself, "Living life with energy and enthusiasm, the choices I have made, for good or ill, the courses I have followed, all these are also ways in which I utter myself in the world." Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, this "journey of a lifetime" cannot fail to capture your interest.