Suzanne Reisler Litwin: I’m Old(er)

Hello, I’m Suzanne and I’m… old. I mean I’m older. In truth, I am old. There I said it. Now, I don’t have to pretend I’m not. I don’t have to try to be young and do all the things I used to be able to do. I’m old and I’m really ok with that. I think…

I used to be able to work in the garden all day. I still work in the garden, but I need to take into consideration my achy back and stiffer knees. I also need to eat, drink and pee more often. Now, I cover my skin entirely to prevent sun damage and skin spots. I usually stop my gardening activity when my back can no longer tolerate the bending over. BECAUSE I’M OLD! It’s getting easier to say it.

I used to run for fun. Always, for tirelessly very long lengths of time. Up and downhills and on all types of terrain. In rain, wind, sun, heat, snow, it didn’t matter. Now, I’m particular about the terrain, temperature, and distance. Why? Because my knees ache from the surface or the climate or the distance. Again, because I’m older and I’ve been running for over 30 years. My knees don’t like running, but my head and heart love it.

I look at my adult kids and I’m astounded at where the time went. People say time flies and kids grow up so fast. Kids do grow up fast, but when you’re in the soup of raising them, it didn’t feel fast at all.

When my kids were growing up all the weeks seemed to blend into each other. We were up Monday and off to school they went. Parents went to work and before you knew it dance classes, hockey games, school meetings, making lunches, tutors, doctor appointments, haircuts and the weekends flew by. We were so busy working, preparing, attending, celebrating, stressing, and hoping all would be fine. Then suddenly, ten years passed and boom those kids are older and so are we.

Multiply that by two or three times and that’s how I’m old! So are the kids, and where did the time go? We are lost in the passage of time.

A while ago, I got a fresh Fall Season brochure in the mail from Le Centre Cummings – The Cummings Center – A Seniors Activity Centre. I WAS INSULTED! This is not for me! I’m not old like that. I’m not going to a place where old people go to do senior activities. I tossed that ‘thing’ into the recycling bin with relief. Gone was the thought of me being old – like those people.

A few months later, another brochure arrived at my home. This was for the Spring-Summer season. I was just about to toss that ‘thing’ into the recycling bin when I noticed on the cover was a picture of my friend. She’s just about 10 years older than me and she looked beautiful. I decided to keep this brochure and maybe browse through it.

Not only did I browse through it, I studied it! I was in shock at how many amazing different activities were available to anyone 50 years and older. With an inexpensive membership, anyone 50+ is able to do a huge amount of activities at a relatively low cost. I could learn how to paint, sculpt, play bridge, do photography, practice yoga, learn a new language, improve my writing skills, and even go on day trips to farms and museums. I could go cross country skiing, take walking trips, visit another city, etc. The opportunities were endless.

This peaked my interest, but not enough to actually accept my age relevance. I kept the brochure in my "to do" file.

A month later, I was given an opportunity to teach a writing course at Le Centre Cummings – The Cummings Centre. I was ok going to the Centre as an instructor, but not as a participant yet. During my course experience I met amazing, interesting, spiritual, kind, loving people. I sort of got hooked.

One day I received an email from the Cummings Centre that a woman who was close to 100 was giving a yoga class and life lessons. I needed to participate immediately! I became a member of The Cummings Centre and I bought a ticket to the event. I practiced yoga with this woman and many other people similar to my age. I walked away from the experience as though I was walking on a cloud. I was a free spirit allowing myself to accept my age and relevance. If this senior woman, who was close to 100, was able to do gorgeous yoga poses and conduct a class in such a professional and beautiful manner, what was my resistance at 55 years old?

Flash forward to now, I have taught many writing courses at The Cummings Centre. I have enjoyed every single moment. I love walking into the building and being greeted by so many members, volunteers and staff. It’s an amazing place of passion, activity, and life. Some members have described the Cummings Centre as a family. I agree, it does feel like a family.

I have learned a lot about being a senior, aging and how much care and love older people need. I have learned about compassion and unsurmountable strength and determination.

One particular story of determination will never leave me. I was midway through teaching my course, Write About It. As I was about to start the 3rd class, a student kept asking me to repeat what I was saying. I quickly realized he was having a problem with his hearing aids. I ask him if I can help him adjust his hearing aids. He suddenly realized he had forgotten them at home. He was terribly disappointed and aggravated as he didn’t want to miss the class.

In frustration he stood up. He put on his coat, hat, and with his brief case in hand he politely excused himself and left the class room. May I mention he was 94 years old and in strongly determined shape.

Everyone in the class felt sorry he had left. Truthfully, he was unable to hear what I was saying or what the other students were saying. I suppose he was annoyed. Mid-way through the two hour class, we took a ten minute break. When the break was over, our beloved student had returned to the classroom. He mentioned that he had walked home, put in his hearing aids and walked back to the Centre. He said that he didn’t live so far away. He also said, “I wasn’t willing to miss the class over a minor technicality.”

We applauded his efforts!

In all my 30+ years of teaching, I have never seen such a huge effort to attend a class as I did that day. It gave me a sense of professional worth too!

This and other wonderful events are the beauty within The Cummings Centre. Am I on the younger side of the age spectrum scale there? Yes, I am! But, I’m there and ready to embrace the journey.

I just received the 2018 Fall Season Cummings Centre brochure. I am sure to find more exciting courses, lectures, and events to attend. (Check out page 17!) Perhaps my friends won’t participate with me, yet. Maybe some will. Perhaps my Mother will be interested in taking a course or attending a lecture with me?

I’m lucky to be able to teach my course, “Write About It”, this fall. I hope my beloved students will once again return to my classroom.

For more information about Le Centre Cummings – The Cummings Centre go to www.cummingscentre.org or call 514-342-1234 or email information@cummingscentre.org

Registration is currently OPEN!!! I hope to see you there.

—Suzanne Reisler Litwin

—AB

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