Back row, left to right: My brother Ben, mother Martha, grandmother Gloria, cousin Ella, aunt Mary. Front row, cousin Ruby, and me.

At her birthday dinner, my grandmother said as we paid the bill: “But this is all very strange – I’m NOT old, I’m young!”

One might easily dismiss such a statement as nothing more than a doddering denial of her mortality. Admittedly a bit adorable – but nonetheless a bit deluded.

In fact, she had simply repeated something that I have heard many elderly people say, and apparently her own parents said as well: the way they felt inside never really changed. They felt like the same singular person at the age of 15 and at 85. Our mental dexterity might decline, short term memory fade, but knowledge increase and wisdom thus accumulate (hopefully – only if we’ve been paying attention). But from what I’m told, there is an immutable, endearing sense of self that doesn’t really change.

There’s something rather comforting in that.

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