- Since yesterday was my 66th birthday I thought I would share some of my more personal thoughts and experiences with aging. It is one of my favorites actually. See what you think.
I began to think about Westerns and aging gracefully last night after watching a special about the old western stars, their shows, and their memories of those shows. As a young girl, I grew up watching these brave, daring, rescuers of every maiden, settler, or family member with their wisdom or “daring do.” Western/Cowboy shows like Rawhide, Wagon Train, Rifleman, The Virginian, Bonanza, Maverick and so many more thrilled me as a kid. So I was totally happy to see pieces from these very shows. Seeing the actors and actresses as they were in those old days: tall, handsome or beautiful, wise in the ways of handling bad guys. Or for the female actresses being beautiful (or as with Barbara Stanwick on Big Valley) matronly, beautiful and tough, able to adapt to the “man’s world” of the West!
The narrators spoke of how these shows addressed such problems as racism and even laid the groundwork to interracial understanding. Rosie Greer, famous African-American football player, played a free slave; Ed Amos, played Mingo, Daniel Boone’s Native American partner; and Henry Darrow was an Hispanic actor. We were exposed to races we really didn’t know very well back then. Everybody, in the end, stayed young and got along after learning a lesson from the star.
These shows also helped us address some of our own problems. All of the shows dealt with some drama, tragedy, love interest, comedy, adventure, challenge, wound or disease they had to deal with. Many episodes showed us father-son relationships such as the one between Ben Cartwright and his sons on Bonanza.
There were a few deaths of good characters but these were quickly forgotten in the next episode. James Arness, as Matt Dillon, avoided shooting the bad guy when possible, teaching us to save the killing or wounding as a last resort and try to talk to the bad guys first, or outsmart them. As young people, we learned much from these fictitious characters about dealing with life. Then there was John Wayne, well, need I say more?
I also learned a lesson from watching some of these actors, whom I had just seen, young and handsome or beautiful from the show excerpts, as they were asked questions about these shows made fifty or more years ago. They had grown old.
Most I recognized, a few I never would have known who they were because their faces had changed from the ravages of time, stress, weight gain and whatever else happens as we age. I wanted to remember them the way they were! Sure they are older now, but why did they have to grow old and change? Give me back my old heroes as they were!
Then I realized a valuable lesson. We can still learn from these old cowboys. We all get old, if we don’t get old, then we died young!
We will all get wrinkles! We will all gain some weight! We will all look older as we get older. (No matter how long we fight it!!) No matter how much makeup, hair coloring, exercise, or whatever, we will get old someday, (hopefully)! Sure we would all like to maintain our youthful glow or strength.
There are several alternatives: we can exercise our butts off, trying to maintain that girlish/manly figure; we can hide it with excessive make up and color our hair to our youthful colors, or wear a toupee, or we can deny it and fight it tooth and nail. Some people age well and look great at eighty, some do not. Or we can accept that the aging process is part of life and let it happen as healthily as we can.
The thing of it is, when we are eighty, hopefully we won’t be worried about how beautiful or handsome we are? (I am not saying to let ourselves get run down or look like a hermit!)
We have so much more to offer the world than temporary external beauty. We have a lifetime full of experience and wisdom that we can share with whoever chooses to listen. We have hopefully learned how to love ourselves better, having finished with the teenage angst, learned to deal with problems (having survived the newness of being a new wife or husband, the stress of making a marriage work and raising children and paying the big bills).
So let us accept aging for what it is. It is inevitable. It is part of the cycle of life. It is a new episode in the bigger adventure of life. It is a time of still being active and enjoying life and seeing the deeper beauty in things as we slow down, (yes we will all slow down eventually, no matter how fast we can run at sixty.) It is a time to remember, heal lingering wounds, share with our families and friends and prepare for the next stage of life.
Our lives are our own show, on which others will look back and think of us as we were when we were young, but hopefully they will also think back on us the way we were when we were older. Hopefully, we gave them an example of wisdom, love, patience, integrity, hard work, perseverance, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, joy and thankfulness. Hopefully our lives will be viewed and loved by our children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren but in a more real and wonderful way than my cowboy heroes were viewed by me as a little kid.
We hopefully will attain a degree of peace in our lives. That peace transcends all the physical changes we will experience. Maybe we can be an example to our children and grandchildren to show them what is really important in life. The love of our family, friends, neighbors and our God are what is truly important. Those things are what we need to show and share with those we love and know. Therein lies the good things about aging. We can help others to know and learn and enjoy this life and repeat the cycle in a more healthy and wiser way when they become our age.
This article was later posted on Candid Slice on July 13, 2013. http://www.candidslice.com/old-westerns-and-aging/